Let’s focus entirely on the matchups in this game, as there are some good ones involving Yankees hitters heading into Game 4.
Phil Hughes Matchups To Watch
Hughes made three starts against the Orioles in the Bronx this year -- two bad and one good. The two bad ones shared the common bond of being games in which Hughes allowed only two extra-base hits, but both were home runs. Hughes will likely face a lineup that includes four Orioles who have homered against him this season: J.J. Hardy, Adam Jones, Chris Davis, and Mark Reynolds.
Hughes had three not-so-good starts to close the season, allowing 13 earned runs in his last 16 1/3 innings. He had trouble closing out innings. Opponents had a .464 on-base percentage against him with two outs, 144 points higher than they did in two-out situations over the rest of the season.
Hughes had a really good cutter/slider towards the end of the season, one that allowed no hits and got 27 outs over a 90-pitch span in late August/into September. But in his last two starts, he threw those pitches 45 times and gave up five hits, including a 459-foot home run to Brett Lawrie.
Hughes does have good overall numbers against most of this Orioles lineup. Jones is a .206 career hitter in 34 at-bats against him. Catcher Matt Wieters is only a little better, at .231 in 26 at-bats.
Joe Saunders Matchups to Watch
The Yankees have a good history against Saunders. He does have a 3-1 regular-season record against them, but it comes with a 5.82 ERA. He also allowed five runs in 10 1/3 innings against them in the 2009 ALCS.
Saunders has great numbers against left-handed hitters this season. Including the postseason, they have a .218 on-base percentage and a .225 slugging percentage against him. Both of those are MLB-bests.
Saunders doesn’t overpower lefties. He wins with location. Saunders likes to aim his fastball to the lower-third of the strike zone or below. It looks like a strike, so hitters swing often, but they usually miss. His 35 percent miss rate on those “knee-high-or-below” fastballs is second-best among ERA-title qualifiers this season.
But two Yankees lefties have great numbers against him.
Two other Yankees have standout stats against him in a decent sample. Including postseason, Derek Jeter is a .455 hitter (10-for-22) against Saunders.
Alex Rodriguez is 8-for-20 against Saunders. He was 0-for-3 against him on September 8, but as Joe Girardi likes to note, the swings were good. He hit a pair of deep flyouts and a lineout to left field.
It makes sense for Girardi to start six right-handed hitters today. Righties had a .307/.349./.500 slashline against Saunders. The .849 OPS (including postseason) ranks third-worst in baseball. Atop the list: None other than Yankees starter Phil Hughes.
Bold Binder Decision of the Day
If Girardi uses Jeter at DH tonight (not impossible, given Jeter’s bone bruise), it figures that Jayson Nix would get the start at shortstop.
Nix is 3-for-10 against Saunders. The three hits were home runs, coming in consecutive at-bats over two games in 2009. Since then, Nix is 0-for-6 against Saunders, with a sacrifice bunt.