10/05/12 11:56 PM ET
Yanks ready to hit the road, face familiar foe in O's
By Bryan Hoch / MLB.com
Not knowing which opponent awaited in the American League Division Series, all the Yankees could do was try to get a good workout in on their home turf and prepare for an early flight somewhere on Saturday.
As they now have learned, their path to a 28th World Series championship will run through Baltimore, as the Orioles advanced to the ALDS with their 5-1 victory over the Rangers on Friday night at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.
"You fight all 162 games to get to this point, and now we get our chance to start the second part of the season," Yankees outfielder Curtis Granderson said.
The Yankees and Orioles will open the ALDS on Sunday at 6 p.m. ET at Camden Yards on TBS. The Yankees do not have to finalize their playoff roster until 10 a.m. ET on Sunday, and Yankees manager Joe Girardi indicated that the club would wait to reveal its final decisions.
About the only definite that Girardi would lock himself into was that CC Sabathia will be on the mound for the Yankees on Sunday, making what will be his 12th postseason appearance -- and 11th start -- in a Yankees uniform.
"Sorry, but things could change, opponents can change, weather can change," Girardi said. "That's why you don't really announce anything yet."
The situation, with the Yankees gathering in the Bronx 48 hours before a scheduled first pitch and having no idea who they'd play, seemed par for the course on a day when so much seemed uncertain.
Back in 2009, the Yankees gathered around pizza and snacks to watch the one-game playoff between the Tigers and Twins, a night that went longer than anyone anticipated -- 12 innings -- before Minnesota's win.
Having learned their lesson, the Yankees did not assemble this time to watch the Orioles and Rangers do battle; they scattered to the city and surrounding areas to pack their bags, knowing they'd have a flight to catch in the morning.
"It is a little strange, but give [MLB Commissioner] Bud Selig and all of central baseball a lot of credit," Alex Rodriguez said. "This is as exciting a weekend as I've ever been a part of in my career. To have so many meaningful games, I don't think in my nine years in New York we've ever had a game 162 with so much significance on it.
"It was a huge game for us. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, those games were huge. It seemed like every game was very important for us in September. We know what we have to do to win. I feel comfortable with whoever we play, wherever we go, that if we do what we have to do, we're going to be good."
And it also seemed odd to some that the Yankees would open on the road despite owning the best record in the American League, but they generally shrugged that off as an anticipated quirk of the schedule.
"It is what it is," Girardi said. "You're going to have to win on the road, anyway. You're going to have to win games on the road to win series, for the most part. We have to have success wherever we start, and we're just going to have to get it done."
"The road's a tough place to play in the playoffs, so you want to go there and win both of 'em," Andy Pettitte said. "But you still feel like you're going to be able to come home and hold that home-field advantage. Whoever we go and play, it's going to be tough games."
Major League Baseball announced in March that, because of scheduling conflicts after an agreement on the second Wild Card was reached, they would be forced to return to the old 2-3 format that was used in the ALDS from 1995-97. Next year, the more recent 2-2-1 ALDS format will be back in play.
"We all know we're going to have to win some games on the road to make it to the promised land," Mark Teixeira said, "so we're not going to complain about starting on the road."
Obviously, the Yankees have seen plenty of the Orioles, having split an 18-game schedule against them this season -- plus, as Rodriguez pointed out, also meeting in Spring Training.
That means both clubs are quite familiar with each other, but as the Yankees looked ahead to their pre-series scouting meeting and a trip to the Inner Harbor on Saturday, they know full well that the Orioles will present a very difficult test.
"The bottom line is, the game doesn't change," Rodriguez said. "You still have to get 27 outs, you have to execute, you have to pitch well, you have to catch the ball and you have to get some timely hitting. It can be a pro and con, but you've got to execute."