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O's starting pitchers matching higher-profile counterparts

Orioles manager Buck Showalter was asked before the AL Division Series began to explain why his team's bullpen has been so successful.

His answer had little to with his relievers.

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"It starts with starting pitching," he said. "You cannot put a bullpen - a successful bullpen - together if your starters are spitting the bit in the third, fourth and fifth inning for a majority of the games."

While it looked like starting pitching would be a major advantage for the Yankees in this series, Baltimore's less-heralded hurlers have essentially matched their bigger-name counterparts strike for strike through two games.

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Wei-Yin Chen and Jason Hammel have allowed three earned runs in 12 innings for a 2.25 ERA for Baltimore while former Cy Young Award winner CC Sabathia and all-time career postseason wins leader Andy Pettitte have given up five earned runs in 15 2-3 innings for a 2.87 ERA for New York.

"Going against Sabathia and Pettitte, that's two of the best pitchers in the game," Orioles center fielder Adam Jones said. "But, hey, our guys are going out there throwing that baseball."

The best-of-five series is tied at one game apiece and resumes tonight in New York.

Starting pitching was a major reason the Orioles took a split in Baltimore. Orioles starters allowed no home runs in two games to the team that led the majors with 245 homers this season.

"If we don't pitch well, the ball will end up where the grass doesn't grow," Showalter said. "That's why people are playing in October is because of their pitching. You can talk about all the other stuff and statistics, but it's the one common denominator of everybody here is that you've pitched pretty consistently, gotten deep in your games with your starters."

Showalter praised Hammel's outing on Sunday and said Chen was the key to Monday's win.

Miguel Gonzalez (9-4) opposes Hiroki Kuroda (16-11) tonight. Gonzalez is a 28-year-old rookie who was signed by the Orioles as a minor league free agent March 4 and had never pitched in the majors before May. He won two starts in Yankee Stadium this season.

"He keeps guys off-balance and locates well," first baseman Mark Reynolds said of Gonzalez. "He hits spots - he's just another guy who has stepped up for us this year after we've had a spotty rotation."

As the series turns into essentially a best-of-three in Yankee Stadium between a pair of teams that went 9-9 against each other during the regular season, the Orioles know they'll need their starting pitchers to continue matching the Yankees' starters.

"We're going to ride these guys all the way out," Reynolds said. "They've been doing it for us all year, and hopefully they can keep it up."

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