The Baltimore Orioles saved their magical season in New York with their backs against the wall Thursday night. Down 2 games-1 in the best of 5 ALDS, the birds pulled off a 2-1, 13 inning win in The Bronx, forcing a decisive Game 5 Friday evening.
Joe Saunders, who pitched the birds into the ALDS with a dominant performance in Texas last week, got the ball with the season on the line, and he was again sensational. Saunders threw 5.2 innings, giving up just 3 hits. He was a bit wild, walking four, but he fanned 5 Yankees, including striking out the side in the third following a leadoff double from Jayson Nix.
The Orioles appeared ready to give Saunders a lead several times. They put two on with none out in the first, but couldn’t push anything across. In the third, the Orioles had runners on second and third with nobody out, but again, came up empty. Runners on first and third with two outs in the fourth, and nothing. Finally, leading off the fifth, the Orioles called on the long ball to get on the board.
Nate McLouth blasted a 1-2, 91 MPH fastball deep into the right field seats for a 1-0 lead, a lead that would stand for an inning and a half. In the Yankees sixth, the Bronx Bombers manufactured a run. Derek Jeter led off against Saunders with a double. An Ichiro sac bunt mover Jeter to third. Saunders walked Mark Teixeira, and got Robinson Cano on a force out. Jeter scored on the play, and it was 1-1. Saunders was lifted for Tommy Hunter. Hunter blew away the struggling Alex Rodriguez, fanning the Yankees third baseman on a 97 MPH heater.
Hunter was the first of seven Orioles relievers on the night, with all contributing big outs. He was lifted for Troy Patton after an error by Ryan Flaherty. Patton was replaced gave way to Luis Ayala one out and one hit later. With runners on first and second, Ayala struck out Jeter looking. Buck Showalter decided to let Ayala start the eighth. Ichiro led off with a single, and moved to second on a Teixeira hit.
Brian Matusz came on, and got Cano on a grounder that advanced the runners. On came Darren O’Day for his most impressive performance, possibly all season. O’Day struck out ARod, and got Nick Swisher on a fly out to right. The potential disaster, late in the game, was averted.
O’Day stayed on in the ninth, getting the Yankees—including Wednesday night’s villain Raul Ibanez—1, 2, 3. O’Day stayed on through a blemish-free tenth. Buck reached deeper into the pen in the eleventh, plucking out forgotten man Pedro Strop, who’s performance was far from forgettable.
Strop’s very first pitch was a nasty slider that caused Alex Rodriguez to buckle a bit, for a called strike. It seemed to feed the enigmatic right hander’s confidence, which had been sorely lacking from Strop for the better part of a month. Strop set the Yankees down in order with one strikeout in the eleventh. He gave up a hit in the twelfth, but nothing else.
The Orioles would break through in the top of the thirteenth inning. Manny Machado led off with a liner over Cano and into the right-center field gap for a double. McLouth’s ground out moved Machado to third. Then JJ Hardy broke out, driving a double to the left field wall. Macahdo scored, and it was 2-1. But Chris Davis and Adam Jones left Hardy at second, and the O’s went into a save situation with their slumping closer.
Jim Johnson struck out Mark Teixeira looking on a big curve ball for the first out. Next, Cano lined out to McLouth in left. And for a second straight night, Yanks manager Joe Girardi pinch hit for ARod, this time with Eric Chavez. On the sixth pitch of the at-bat, Chavez lined out to third for out number three, and a 2-2 series tie.
Game five features Jason Hammel for the Orioles against CC Sabathia for the Yankees. First pitch is at 5pm.
- The pitching: 8 Orioles pitchers combined to go 13 innings, giving up just 1 run on 7 hits, 5 walks, and 11 strikeouts. They held the Yankees to 0/9 with RISP.
- The offense: 1/11 with RISP.
- Davis: 0/6, 3K, 5LOB
- Jones: 0/6, 2K, 5LOB. Jones is now hitting .105 in the ALDS.