The Orioles are going to have to find a way to scratch our four or five runs against Yankees ace CC Sabathia later today, which wouldn’t be easy in a twilight game at Yankee Stadium against a ham-and-egg junkballer, much less one of the best pitchers in the game.
But they have been very competitive over the course of this season against Sabathia, so a trip to Detroit for the American League Championship Series certainly is not out of the question.
The key, of course, is the one thing the Orioles really have not done during the Division Series or – for that matter – a good part of the season. They have not been able to get that big hit with runners on base early in the game to build a cushion for their starting pitcher.
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That was the case on Thursday night, when they got two runners to open two of the first three innings, but did little to even advance the runners. They played well into the night before J.J. Hardy doubled into the gap in left field to drive in their go-ahead run in the 13th inning.
Maybe that will unleash the untapped offensive production that has to be simmering below the surface of the Orioles batting order. Maybe that will pull Adam Jones and Matt Wieters out of their run-production funks at just the right moment to propel the O’s past the Yankees and into the next playoff round against the Tigers.
Nothing over the past week has suggested that will happen, but it would obviously be a great time for the heart of the lineup to step up.