The Yankees and Orioles have played 20 times this year, including two Division Series games. They are 10-10. No, neither team has achieved anything resembling separation. With nearly 90 percent of the precincts reporting, this election is still too close to call.
But before the week is out, weather permitting, somebody is going to win this argument, along with advancement to the AL Championship Series.
The Orioles tied this series with a 3-2 victory on Monday night. But now the series moves to Yankee Stadium. In the inverted home-field advantage brought on by the introduction of the second Wild Card team, the remainder of this series will be played in New York, beginning with Game 3 on Wednesday night on TBS at 7:30 p.m. ET.
Form has not been followed by the Orioles, who refused to see themselves reflected in the preseason prognostications that dismissed them as once again hapless. Instead the Orioles have viewed themselves as a scrappy, resilient team, strong in the fundamental aspects of the game, not at all intimidated by big-name opponents or high-pressure situations.
The Orioles, not the soothsayers, were right. The O's had the third-best record in the AL over the regular season and knocked off the defending AL champion Rangers in a Wild Card playoff.
Along the way they compiled the best single-season record in one-run games in history (29-9). And now they are on the board against the team with by far the richest history in all of postseason baseball.
This 1-1 series awaits the next forward move. The Game 3 starters will be Hiroki Kuroda for the Yankees and Miguel Gonzalez for the Orioles. On paper the advantage goes to Kuroda, an accomplished veteran of Japanese baseball, the National League and, now, the pitcher-unfriendly AL East.
But Gonzalez, like the rest of the Orioles, is not so easy to dismiss. The 28-year-old rookie may enter this contest as a relative unknown to fans outside the Orioles sphere of influence, but over his 10 regular-season starts, he was 6-2 with a 2.49 ERA. He was 2-0 with a 2.63 ERA in two starts at Yankee Stadium.
Gonzalez has stayed the course through considerable adversity, having lost consecutive seasons (2008 and 2009) to knee surgery and then Tommy John surgery.
"I did have my ups and downs," Gonzalez said on Tuesday during a conference call. "I did what I had to do, and it paid off."
"He's a great story about perseverance and the will to succeed," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said.
On the New York side of the argument, Kuroda was splendid at home this season (11-6, 2.72 in 19 starts). During a conference call on Tuesday, Kuroda, through an interpreter, gave major credit to the Yankee Stadium crowds, saying, "They really motivate me during the game."
Furthermore, the Yankees had the best home record, at 51-30. All right, there were six clubs at 50-31, but still, the Yankees were indisputably first.
On paper these are still the Yankees, and it does seem difficult to project them losing two out of three at home in an October showdown with a 21st-century postseason newcomer.
But on Monday night, the edge on paper obviously went to Andy Pettitte, the all-time leader in postseason victories, over Wei-Yin Chen, another rookie in the Baltimore rotation. And Pettitte was fine, certainly good enough to win, but Chen was just a bit better. As a result, the Orioles were 3-2 winners and the series was tied at 1.
After looking at the total work of these two clubs this season, including their head-to-head 10-10 record, the surprise in this series would have been a sweep. What shouldn't be a surprise is a series tied.
What will decide this series? Nothing other than the basics. What can possibly separate these two clubs after 20 games produced a draw? The usual stuff.
"Whoever plays the best," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "I mean, that's the bottom line; whoever pitches the best and scores in their opportunities is really what's going to make the difference."
We can all expect to receive a major dose of insight into this issue on Wednesday.
Orioles: Extra rest may benefit Gonzalez
The Orioles are hoping that their careful approach to Gonzalez's innings will benefit the right-hander during Game 3, which he will be starting on seven days' rest. During the regular season, he posted a 4.55 ERA in nine starts on regular rest, but his ERA was 2.52 when he worked on six or more days of rest.
Catcher Matt Wieters hasn't been surprised by Gonzalez's success, given the depth of his arsenal.
"He can locate his fastball, which is going to give any pitcher a good chance to succeed," Wieters said, "and he's been able to improve his offspeed [stuff] as the year has gone on. I really feel like he has four pitches that he can throw at any time and in any count."
Yankees: Ichiro thriving under pressure
Ichiro Suzuki, acquired in a trade with the Mariners in late July, is experiencing his first taste of the postseason since batting .600 with Seattle during the 2001 playoffs. So far he's made the most of it.
On Monday, one night after opening the scoring in the Yankees' Game 1 win with an RBI double in the first inning, Ichiro went 1-for-5 and displayed his agility with some swift maneuvers at home plate to avoid Wieters' tag and score the first run of Game 2.
The veteran outfielder has embraced the heightened pressure that comes with October baseball.
"The atmosphere of the stadium was obviously different, and I didn't know how I was going to react," Ichiro said prior to Game 2. "But I didn't think that I wouldn't be able to control my excitement, and that wasn't the case -- maybe because I'm with the Yankees and just the atmosphere that we have at the Stadium.
"I think a lot of players got booed last night, but it just felt really good to get booed on the road."
The O's, who went 74-0 during the regular season when leading after seven innings, came through again on Monday under the same scenario.
Nick Swisher is just 1-for-33 in his postseason career with runners in scoring position. His inning-ending flyout with Brian Matusz pitching in the seventh stranded runners at second and third.