Published October 11, 2012
Most teams send their next day's starting pitcher to the interview room before a postseason game. The Baltimore Orioles sent two.
With Baltimore manager Buck Showalter publicly uncertain about his Game 4 starter against the New York Yankees, Joe Saunders sat on the podium Wednesday with Chris Tillman sitting to his left.
"We were kind of hoping you would tell us because we don't know yet," Saunders told reporters. "Whoever it is, me or Chris, we're going to go out there and do our job."
Saunders will get the start in Game 4, trying to keep the Orioles season alive. The Yankees took a 2-1 series lead on Raul Ibanez's homer in the 12th inning on Wednesday night that gave New York a 3-2 victory.
Saunders, a 31-year-old left-hander, was 3-3 with a 3.63 ERA in seven starts after he was acquired from Arizona on Aug. 26. Tillman, a 23-year-old righty, was 9-3 with a 2.93 ERA in 15 starts.
Tillman hasn't pitched since the regular-season finale on Oct. 3, and Saunders hasn't appeared in a game since Sept. 30.
"We don't truly have maybe a one, two, three, four, five kind of rotation," Saunders said. "We have maybe a couple twos, maybe a couple threes, maybe a four, whatever. Like Buck says, whoever is pitching that day is the ace. Every day is the biggest game of the year, and then we move on to the next day and then that day is the biggest game of the year."
Saunders won his one start against the Yankees, allowing two runs and five hits over 5 1-3 innings to defeat CC Sabathia 5-4 on Sept. 8 at Camden Yards. Tillman was 1-0 with a 6.75 ERA in two starts against New York.
Baltimore was 6-3 at Yankee Stadium during the regular season after going 2-7 in the Bronx in each of the previous three years.
"This year has been a whole different feel in the clubhouse and on the field," Tillman said. "We've just been playing good baseball. I think any given night it's a different guy that's a star that helps the team. It's never the same guys over and over again. Different guys pull through for us. It's exciting to watch."
CAPTAIN OUCH: Derek Jeter limped off the field after striking out in the eighth inning and didn't return to the Yankees' 3-2, 12 inning victory in Game 3 over the Orioles.
New York's captain fouled a ball off his foot in the third inning, just before hitting an RBI triple over the head of Baltimore's bubble-blowing center fielder Adam Jones. Jeter labored as he jogged back to the dugout but stayed in the game.
"It hurt man," Jeter said. "You try having someone throw a ball at your foot as hard as they can. It's just part of the game, but I wish it didn't happen."
Still, Jeter insisted he was going to play Thursday.
Manager Joe Girardi will wait until the shortstop comes in before batting practice to decide.
"It's day to day, and we'll see how he feels," Girardi said. "Hopefully we can get him back in there."
Slowed by a bruised ankle in September that forced him to serve as the designated hitter for six of nine games, Jeter said this injury was to a different part of the foot.
In the sixth, he slowly jogged to first on a single. After striking out in the eighth he was lifted. When fans saw Jayson Nix heading to shortstop they let out a gasp.
"I talked my way into the last at-bat and that didn't work out so well," he said.
Don't count Jeter out. Entering Wednesday's game Jeter had played every inning in 151 of his 154 postseason games. The only times he was lifted early came in blowout games the Yankees lost by at least 11 runs.
FRANK TALK: Don't try to talk sabermetrics with Frank Robinson. When he won the Triple Crown in 1966, he was the MVP. And he thinks Miguel Cabrera deserves the same honor.
The Hall of Fame slugger weighed in on the AL MVP debate Wednesday after throwing the ceremonial first pitch at Game 3 of the St. Louis Cardinals-Washington Nationals series. While new-age stat-heads might favor Angels rookie Mike Trout, Robinson is definitely old school about Cabrera's .330 batting average, 44 homers and 139 RBIs with the Detroit Tigers.
"Guys have had a good year, Trout especially," Robinson said. "But I don't see how an individual can play on a winning ballclub and get his team into a series trying to get into the World Series and win a Triple Crown — and not be the MVP of the league."
Robinson's impressive feat was repeated in 1967 by Carl Yastrzemski, but baseball then went 45 years without a Triple Crown winner before Cabrera pulled it off.
"I'm really happy for him because I think people take the Triple Crown for granted really, take it too lightly," Robinson said. "I think it's the most outstanding thing an individual player as a hitter can do. It's not an easy thing. I don't know of anybody who went into spring training and said, 'I'm going to win the Triple Crown.' You can't do that."
"What bugs me is when people start hollering in April about a guy leading the league in all three and they say, 'What do you think his chances are?' And I tell them: 'Slim and none and slim left town and none passed away.' You don't start thinking about Triple Crown until early or mid-September."
THE CUT-OFF MAN: Reds pitching coach Bryan Price was clean-shaven when he showed up at Great American Ball Park on Wednesday, deciding he'd paid off his no-hitter debt.
Price started growing a mustache after Homer Bailey threw the franchise's 15th no-hitter in Pittsburgh on Sept. 28, making good on a vague promise from spring training.
"I don't remember it," Price said. "I'm sure I said something in spring training that if any of you incompetents can potentially, somehow throw a no-hitter, I would grow a mustache or something like that. Obviously, all in jest."
That's not how the players took it. Bailey clearly remembered it.
"After he was mobbed by his teammates, that's the first thing he said to me on the field in Pittsburgh," Price said.
Price let the hair on his lip grow, acknowledging he looked a little "ridiculous" with it. He did an interview for Bailey's start against the Giants in Game 3 on Tuesday night, then got rid of the new look.
"I honored it, going on national television with a mustache in a game that Homer pitched, and once he got done with it, I couldn't get it off fast enough," Price said.
FOR STARTERS: After going 5-10 with a 5.42 ERA in 16 starts, Brian Matusz was demoted to the minors in midseason by the Orioles. When he returned in late August, he blossomed into one of baseball's best left-hander relievers, going 1-0 with a 1.35 ERA.
Coming out of the bullpen, Matusz held left-handed hitters to a .179 average (5 for 28) and righties to 0 for 16.
Still, his stay in the 'pen could be a brief one.
"Brian will more than likely go in the spring as a starter," manager Brian Showalter said Wednesday. "We think he can go back and do this, but he needs to get his innings. It was also a carrot for him to come back to the big leagues, so there was a lot of want-to there."