NEW YORK — Miguel Gonzalez is enjoying the Baltimore Orioles’ October attire.
After spending more than seven years bouncing around the minor leagues and recovering from injuries, he’s not letting a thing get past him during his first playoff experience.
“The postseason sweater. That’s what all the pitchers and most of the guys were wearing,” Gonzalez said. “It was a great feeling. Got the chills. Got the adrenaline going, even though I wasn’t playing.”
Now the rookie right-hander is taking off his sweater and getting ready to pitch Wednesday night in Game 3 of the AL division series against the New York Yankees. The best-of-five matchup is tied at 1.
Gonzalez (9-4) will have a chance to put these unflappable Birds one win from their first trip to the AL championship series since 1997. He goes against Hiroki Kuroda (16-11) of the Yankees.
The 28-year-old Gonzalez has gone from being released by the Red Sox in December to perhaps the Orioles’ most consistent pitcher down the stretch, finishing 6-2 with a 2.79 ERA since Aug. 10. During that run he held the Yankees in check for seven brilliant shutout innings and took a two-hitter into the seventh inning against the Blue Jays on the next-to-last-day of the season, helping lock up a wild-card spot.
“Miguel has put himself in a position to contribute, and he’s a great story about perseverance and just a strong will to succeed. He cares about winning. It’s not about himself, it’s about impacting the game on the four days he doesn’t pitch, his teammates,” manager Buck Showalter said. “He’s always got a smile on his face, and he’s a guy that’s not going to wither from the competition, that’s not going to have anxiety about things, he trusts himself and he trusts his teammates behind him. He’s been fun to watch.”
The Mexican-born Gonzalez sat out the 2008 and ‘09 seasons because of a knee injury and Tommy John surgery. He was 0-7 with a 5.40 ERA in Boston’s system last year before being released in December. He signed with the Orioles during spring training and was called up from Triple-A Norfolk on May 29. He made his first start July 6, then won at Yankee Stadium at the end of the month.
“He’s a great example to pitchers not only with our team but in the organization about pitching instead of throwing,” Showalter said. “He’s a guy that understands the art of pitching.”
With a sneaky fastball and good command of the strike zone, Gonzalez poses a tough test for the Yankees. He’s 2-0 with a 2.63 ERA in two starts in the Bronx this season, striking out 17 and walking only one in 13.2 innings.
Nick Swisher, Robinson Cano, Mark Teixeira and Curtis Granderson are a combined 0 for 21 with 12 strikeouts against him. Alex Rodriguez, who is 1 for 9 with five Ks this series, has never faced Gonzalez.
After watching teammates Jason Hammel and Wie-Yin Chen shut down the Yankees’ powerful lineup in the first two games of the series, Gonzalez doesn’t plan on doing anything different at Yankee Stadium, where the Orioles are 6-3 this season.
“I think I’m just going to stay within myself and make good pitches and get guys out,” Gonzalez said, “and try to get them as fast as possible.”