The Orioles find themselves in a position now where another loss in either of the next two games will cost them the season. The birds dropped a heartbreaker in New York to the Yankees, 3-2 in 12 innings Wednesday night.
Three rookies had the Orioles out in front of the Yankees through 8.5 innings. Ryan Flaherty blasted a one-out homer in the third, giving the Orioles a 1-0 lead. Manny Machado broke a 1-1 tie with a homer into the Orioles bullpen in the fifth. And rookie righthander Miguel Gonzalez held the potent Yankees offense at bay, striking out eight, walking none, giving up just one run on five hits through seven innings.
In fact, Gonzalez’s numbers SHOULD HAVE been much better. Given the lead on Flaherty’s homer, Gonzalez opened the bottom of the third by striking out Curtis Granderson. Next, Russell Martin doubled to left. Eric Chavez grounded to first, moving Martin to third with two outs. Derek Jeter, longtime Oriole killer, strode to the plate. But instead of Jeter killing the O’s in this at-bat, the Orioles did it themselves.
Jeter picked on a fastball up and in. He put his trademark inside-out swing on it, and drove it to deep right center. Adam Jones, who was playing shallow, did not get a great break on the ball, and never really seemed too concerned that he may not reach it. At the last moment, Jones reached up for the ball, only to have it sail over his glove. It went for an RBI triple, but it was a badly misplayed ball that Jones usually makes the play on. And, in the end, it was extremely costly.
Machado’s home run gave the O’s the lead in the middle innings, and that lead lasted into the late innings. Darren O’Day pitched a perfect eighth in relief of Gonzalez. The Orioles offense was stagnant in the ninth, as it had been since Machado’s fifth inning home run. In fact, the Orioles would only pick up two more hits the rest of the way after Machado’s shot.
Into the bottom of the ninth we went. Jim Johnson, who’d imploded in game one, and set the Yankees down in order in game two, was called in to save the 2-1 lead. And he did not get it done. Batter one-Ichiro-put a charge into one, driving left fielder Nate McLouth deep for the catch, and out number one. Next, Joe Girardi pulled a shocker, lifting the struggling Alex Rodriguez for pinch-hitter Raul Ibanez. Yes, it was a bold move. Yes, it worked out pretty well for the Yankees.
Ibanez turned on a thigh-high, 94 MPH fastball, and blasted a no-doubt-about-it shot into the right field seats, tying things at 2. For Johnson, it was a horrible pitch at a time where there was absolutely no room for error. The Orioles, just two outs away from a 2-1 series lead, were now headed to extra innings. And, yes, that has been a strength for this team, statistically to a mind-blowing extent. But these games are playoff games. And playoff games are different, especially in The Bronx.
Robert Andino led off the tenth with a single to left. One out later, though, he was caught leaning off the bag at second on what would turn into an unassisted double play on a sharp line drive from McLouth. The birds went three-up, three-down in the eleventh. In the bottom of the eleventh, Brian Matusz came on in relief of Jim Jihnson. Matusz got the Yankees in order. In the O’s twelfth, a two-out hit from Mark Reynolds went undelivered. And Matusz headed back to the hill in the bottom of the twelfth, facing a pair of left handed hitters to start things. Actually, he never made it past the first lefty.
Matusz’s first pitch to Raul Ibanez missed its spot. Matt Wieters set up for a pitch down and away. Matusz’s 91 MPH fastball was up, and Ibanez launched it—a second-deck, walk-off home run to win it for the Yankees, 3-2.
The O’s will be playing for their lives Thursday night in New York. Phil Hughes (16-13, 4.23) goes for the Yankees. Joe Saunders (3-3, 3.63) gets the Game 4 assignment for Baltimore. Gametime is 7:30.
- Rookies Flaherty, Machado, and Gonzalez led the way. If only the veterans would have followed.
- The O’s fourth inning opportunity (two on, none out…bases loaded, two outs) was totally missed.
- Jones: 1/5, 1K, 1LOB, 1 huge misplay in center.
- Jim Thome: 0/5, 2LOB. JJ Hardy: 0/5.
- Jim Johnson: 13.50 ERA, 1.80 WHIP in the ALDS.