Pitch selection key for Hammel, Sabathia

Dale Zanine/US Presswire

Jason Hammel has allowed only 2 hits in 17 at-bats that end with a slider against the Yankees in four games this season, including his Game 1 start.

The Baltimore Orioles and New York Yankees play the third winner-take-all game in this year’s League Division Series on Friday.

The Orioles are 1-3 in winner-take-all postseason games, with their only win coming against the Texas Rangers in the AL wild-card game this year. The Yankees have lost three straight such games (their last win came in 2003 against the Boston Red Sox in the ALCS).

Let’s take a closer look at today’s pitching matchup.

Jason Hammel vs Yankees
In At-Bats Ending with Slider

Jason Hammel's key: Slider

For Hammel to help the Orioles to their second straight winner-take-all victory, he’ll need continued success with his slider.

In four games against the Yankees this season, Hammel has held them to two hits in 17 at-bats with the slider (0-for-5 in Game 1 of the ALDS).

CC Sabathia's key: Pitching inside to righties

The key for Sabathia to have success is pitching inside to righties.

In Game 1, Orioles righties were 1-for-10 in at-bats ending with a Sabathia pitch inside. For the season, Baltimore is 7-for-39 with 14 strikeouts against Sabathia in at-bats ending with a pitch inside.

CC Sabathia Pitch Selection
To Orioles Righties on Pitches Inside

In Game 1, 22 of Sabathia’s 28 offerings to righties inside were with the fastball and just three were sliders (he averaged 14 fastballs and 14 sliders in three regular season starts).

Struggling Stars

Curtis Granderson, Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano struggled in Game 4, going a combined 1-for-15 with five strikeouts. For the series, they are 5-for-50 with 19 strikeouts. Of the 50 outs, 25 have come on pitches in the strike zone.

The Yankees aren’t the only team to have high-profile players struggling in this series. Baltimore’s Adam Jones hit .287 with 32 home runs in his breakout 2012 campaign, but he’s putting up one of the worst performances in a postseason in some time, hitting .105 with no walks in the series.

Adam Jones Pitch Distribution
2012 Season

In fact, when you factor in the wild-card game against the Rangers, Jones is hitting .091 with a .178 OPS. It’s also clear that the Yankees can survive a lesser A-Rod, but Jones is crucial for the Orioles.

There can be no denying that Jones is seeing significantly more breaking balls in this postseason than he did during the regular season, and he’s chasing a lot more pitches overall than he did in the regular season.

Did you know?

After a historically close race for the division title (the Yankees and Orioles were separated by no more than 1.5 games from Sept. 3 through Oct. 2), the two teams are engaged in a similar battle inning by inning in the ALDS.

Through the first four games of the series, the score of the game has been either tied or within one run after 41 of the 43 innings played! Only a five-run ninth inning in Game 1 for the Yankees, which broke a 2-2 tie, and the Orioles scoring a sixth-inning run to take a 3-1 lead in Game 2 (which the Yankees immediately answered next half-inning with a run) have prevented the teams being within one run of each other after every inning of the series.

Elias says with the scoring margin no greater than one run in 41 of 43 innings in 95.3 percent of the innings played would stand as the highest in major league history. The “current” record is the 1970 NLCS between the Cincinnati Reds and Pittsburgh Pirates (24 of 28 innings, .857 pct in three games). The record for a series of at least five games is the 1980 NLCS between the Houston Astros and Philadelphia Phillies (41 of 50 innings, .820 pct).