The night Pedro Strop beat the Yankees

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Pedro Strop. (MLB.com)
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The New York Yankees still have a good chance to advance to the A.L.C.S. on Friday, with CC Sabathia on the mound and home field advantage in the decisive Game 5 of their series against the Baltimore Orioles.

But they received a strong pitching performance from Phil Hughes in Game 4 Thursday and entered the late innings needing just one run to put the Orioles away. Instead, it was the Orioles who pushed across a run in the 13th inning, beating the Yankees, 2-1.

Much of the attention in New York, naturally, went toward the failings of the Yankee hitters, leaving aside the fact that they were facing a talented Orioles bullpen. But one pitcher, in particular, doesn't quite fit the mold of a pitcher in good form. And the Yankees couldn't get to him, either.

Pedro Strop was actually one of the surprises of the Orioles' season in the first half. A hard-throwing reliever, Strop was acquired from the Texas Rangers during the 2011 season as a kind of lottery ticket--with the Orioles essentially hoping that he could learn to harness his control.

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During the first half, and even into the second, Strop had extremely positive results. Through August 15, Strop had a microscopic 1.20 E.R.A. But this masked some very ordinary peripherals; a nondescript 7.3 per nine strikeout rate, and an elevated walk rate of 4.3 per nine.

Over the final six weeks of the regular season, his peripherals deteriorated, while his results disintegrated. Strop walked nearly a better per inning, and those who did hit the ball did so to an O.P.S. of .916. Accordingly, his E.R.A. over that time was 7.24, he slid down the pecking order in manager Buck Showalter's bullpen, and through the first three games and much of the fourth, he didn't pitch in the A.L.D.S.

But as Game 4 wore on, Showalter ran out of options. He wanted to keep closer Jim Johnson for when he got a lead. He'd used six other pitchers. How desperate was he to avoid Strop? Darren O'Day, a short reliever who'd pitched 67 innings all year, was used for a season-high 2 2/3 innings. He'd pitched as many as two innings just five times in 2012; he'd never been asked to go a third inning.

But Strop, once he entered in the eleventh, was fantastic. He hadn't pitched in over a week, and his control hadn't been great even when he did pitch regularly. But in the biggest moment of his career, it was, throwing 16 of 23 pitches for strikes over two scoreless innings. The Yankees had only a Derek Jeter single to show for their efforts against him.

An inning later, the Orioles had their run, Johnson had his save.

The matchups in Game 5 seem to be pretty good ones for the Yankees. But that's how they seemed against Pedro Strop, who stopped the Yankees cold.

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