The Yankees and Orioles will start their best of 5 game series at Baltimore tonight. The last time these two teams met in a play-off series was in 1996. These two teams remember that series well, especially Game 1. On October 9, 1996, nearly sixteen years ago to the day, the Yankees trailed the Orioles 4-3 in the bottom of the eighth of Game 1. At the plate was (and this sounds funny) the rookie, Derek Jeter. The rookie shortstop sends a fly ball to right field. The Orioles right fielder, Tony Tarasco, moves back to the wall and when you think he is going to catch it, Jeffrey Maier, sticks his glove over the wall and hauls the ball into the stands. With all the arguments that ensued, remember no instant replay, the Yankees were given the home run to tie the score at 4. The Yankees eventually will win in 11 innings on Bernie Williams' walk-off homer.
Let's fast forward 16 years and look at these teams.
The Orioles that have any connection to that series will have to be Buck Schowalter. He was the manager of the Yankees in 1995 before Torre took over but he was the architect of the nucleus of all of those great Yankees teams.
The Yankees still have that "rookie" Derek Jeter playing shortstop, Andy Petitte, who was the starting pitcher for that game, is still on the mound, Joe Girardi, who pinched hit in that game, has become the manager and Mariano Rivera, who got the win in that game is on the Yankees DL. Rivera was not the closer for the Yankees in 1996, he was the setup man for John Wettland.
Tonight brings some of the same players to the ballpark but these are two different teams than 16 years ago. This will be a good series as long as the Yankees starters don't have a major meltdown. This is the first time in sixteen years that the Yankees will not see a familiar 42 warming up in the bullpen. The Orioles are a Buck Schowalter team and they will find a way to win and make it exciting.
Looking forward to seeing this rematch and I will guarantee that the Orioles will not allow Jeffrey Maier anywhere near the field.