In the 13th inning of Thursday's Game 4 ALDS showdown between the Baltimore Orioles and the New York Yankees, as the O's sealed victory and a listless Bronx crowd filed out onto River Avenue, one could sense a deep gloom settling over Yankee Nation.
Like a bitter, disgusted, vent-your-frustration-on-call-in-radio kind of gloom.
Was this really happening? Were the Baltimore Bleepin' Orioles about to steal a series from their Mighty Pinstripes?
Little did the joyless masses know, but hope was brewing just one channel away.
Over on TNT, the Detroit Tigers, a team seemingly destined for collapse 24 hours earlier, were busy punching their tickets to the American League Championship Series with a 6-0 win over the Oakland A's. It was a victory many heart palpitations in the making.
One night prior, a ninth-inning meltdown by Tigers closer Jose Valverde had handed the A's their second win in a row and sent the series to a fifth game. As Oakland outfielder Seth Smith crossed home plate for the winning run, it seemed as though every cosmic force in the universe—fate, momentum, karma, etc.—was pointing toward the guys in green.
You could sense it: The Oakland A's, darlings of the 2012 MLB season, were totally going to topple the mighty Tigers. No question.
So what happened? In short, Justin Verlander.
The Tigers ace hurled a complete-game, four-hit shutout and the A's disappeared.
By now, I'm assuming you see a parallel between the above scenario and the road that faces these Yankees.
The Baltimore Orioles are the plucky underdog riding an emotional high into Game 5. The Yankees are the bloodied Goliath hoping to absorb one final blow and move on.
No, New York doesn't have fate or popular sentiment on its side. But the Yankees, like the Tigers, have something better: an ace.
And when you can call on a pitcher like CC Sabathia with your season hanging in the balance, you don't need fate as a fallback.
Not me, I'll take the 6'7" dude with a league-leading 4.48 SO:BB ratio. Every time.
Of course sending Sabathia to the hill in Friday's Game 5 guarantees nothing. But that's not Sabathia's fault. He just so happens to play a game that reveals so little of itself over the course of nine innings.
Sabathia could turn in the kind of sterling performance he did in Game 1 of this series or he could give a reprisal of his September 3rd outing, wherein he allowed 5 earned runs over 6 1/3 innings to these same Orioles.
The former is more likely, and that should be a comforting thought for Yankee fans as they meditate on tomorrow.
Momentum might be wearing orange tonight, but as a famous Baltimore Oriole once said:
"Momentum is the next day's starting pitcher."
And I'm guessing Earl Weaver would've been pretty damn pleased to hand CC Sabathia the ball.
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