Orioles manager Buck Showalter said it was a difficult decision to not start veteran designated hitter Jim Thome, the club's most experience postseason player, in Sunday's American League Division Series opener at Camden Yards againtst New York Yankees left-hander CC Sabathia.
Thome did receive the start in Monday's Game 2 against veteran lefty Andy Pettitte. Thome, 42, is a career .214 hitter against the 40-year-old Pettitte in 31 career regular-season at-bats, but he entered the night 5-for-10 with two homers and four RBIs against him in the postseason.
"It was great," Thome said of seeing his name on the lineup card Monday. "You always want to get in there and try to help your club win a ballgame and right now we need to win a ball game. Whether I was not playing or playing, the cheering or the focus of playing would be there no matter what."
Thome entered this year with 67 career postseason appearances, more than the other 10 Orioles with previous postseason experience combined (58). He was 1-for-3 in the Orioles' 5-1 wild-card win over the Texas Rangers, but he sat Sunday against Sabathia, a pitcher he has batted just .129 against in 37 career plate appearances.
"Tough not playing him [Sunday] night," Showalter said before Monday's game. "He's got his shin guards and his batting gloves on [for] about three-fourths of that game last night. He had a good lather going."
Thome hit both postseason homers off Pettitte in the same game, in the Cleveland Indians' 6-1 win over the Yankees in Game 3 of the 1998 ALCS.
"That's what you play for," Thome said. "I'm always prepared, every day. Whether you're in the lineup or not, you can always contribute. You can pinch hit. That really doesn't change for me personally. I prepare the same. I try to go out and do everything the same, whether I'm starting or not. The preparation is the same. Then you just have to wait."
Showalter said placing Thome in the lineup — Lew Ford was the Orioles' DH in Game 1 — also sets up the team's bench to be more versatile.
"It gives us a chance to be a little more [well] rounded for nine innings," Showalter said. "I want to get Jimmy in the fight. He will do a nice job. I'll tell you it also makes our bench better, now you got two left [handed hitters], two right and two runners on the bench as opposed to one. It makes our bench better."
Around the horn
Right fielder Nick Markakis had the pins taken out in his right thumb before Tuesday's game. The team said team doctors were "pleased" with the results. Markakis is a possibility to return if the Orioles advance to the World Series. … Left fielder Nate McLouth drove in two runs in both of the Orioles' first two postseason games, becoming the sixth player to record consecutive multi-RBI games in the playoffs in club history. He joined Mike Bordick (1997), Todd Zeile (1996), Kiko Garcia (1979), Brooks Robinson (1970) and Boog Powell (twice in 1970). … The two wild-card games broadcast on TBS averaged more than 4.6 million viewers, up 61 percent over last season's first day of playoff coverage. It also exceeded the average 4.2 million viewers for all 19 2011 division series games. ... Pettitte came into Monday's start already ranked first all-time in postseason appearances by a pitcher (42), wins (19) and innings (263).Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times