The row-upon-row of Rogans, Turtles and Swishers who populate 95% every single crowd shot of Yankee Stadium must still be giddy after what transpired last night– the heroics of Raul Ibanez, the all-knowing binder of Joe Girardi, and the second meltdown in three games of Jim Johnson, who had been one of the most reliable, dominant relievers in the Majors all season– as the resilient Yankees snuffed out enough of the pixie dust glow of the Baltimore Orioles to finally dim it almost to black.

The Orioles and their magical season are on the brink tonight in Game Four, and only Joe Saunders– no, really– stands in the way of the Yankees and a Saturday meeting with whoever wins tonight’s late game out in Oakland. And why not? Why not have Joe Saunders on the hill with the most improbable of improbable seasons on the line… again? Why not believe that there might still be some otherworldly good fortune still left for the Orioles?

It isn’t difficult to imagine this series being already over, with the Orioles home and resting, given how close these teams were in games One and Two, and given Baltimore’s excellent record in close, and extra-inning games this season. But surely they’ll still have some fight left.

And if you believe such empty cliches of narrative, perhaps you’ll also believe that the Yankees have something extra to play for themselves, as it’s with heavy hearts that they’ll take the field tonight, knowing that this skipper, Joe Girardi, has not only lost his father, but has been suffering in silence since Saturday, choosing not to acknowledge the news, until it became public earlier this afternoon.

Our thoughts are with the Girardi family– and unable to help but wonder whether someone was smiling down last night, when Joe made the stunningly prescient decision to pinch hit Raul Ibanez for Alex Rodriguez.

Though it was much talked about, we won’t see Ibanez again tonight until the manager sees fit, as Girardi has pencilled A-Rod back into the lineup against the left-handed Saunders, at third base this time (and fifth in the order!), while the gimpy-legged Derek Jeter takes a turn at DH.

D. Jeter DH
I. Suzuki LF
M. Teixeira 1B
R. Cano 2B
A. Rodriguez 3B
N. Swisher RF
R. Martin C
C. Granderson CF
J. Nix SS

P. Hughes RHP

Here, via Brooks Brothers Baseball, is Hughes’s pitch usage for 2012.

For the Orioles, its much the same lineup that got them oh-so-close last night.

N. McLouth LF
J. Hardy SS
C. Davis RF
A. Jones CF
M. Wieters C
J. Thome DH
M. Reynolds 1B
R. Flaherty 2B
M. Machado 3B

J. Saunders LHP

Here’s what we can expect Saunders to throw by situation (also via Brooks Baseball).

Hit this link for a side-by-side comparison of the two pitchers components. Here’s hoping for another instant-classic!

Source: FanGraphs