Orioles top Yankees in extras, force Game 5
By KEN FIDLIN, QMI Agency
|Baltimore Orioles relief pitcher Jim Johnson (L) shakes hands with catcher Matt Wieters after the Orioles defeated the New York Yankees in Game 4 of their MLB ALDS baseball playoff series in New York, October 11, 2012. (REUTERS)
Coming on the heels of the thunder and lightning show put on by Raul Ibanez Wednesday night, there was an air of inevitability that bordered on anti-climax at Yankee Stadium Thursday.
In that Game 3 tour-de-force, one of the most spectacular pinch-hitting shows in major league history, Ibanez first tied the game in the ninth, then won it in the 12th. He saw three pitches from Baltimore pitchers and hit two of them far into the night to give New York a 2-1 lead in this best-of-five American League Division Series.
How could the Orioles rebound from something like that?
Well, just like this. Get six innings out of your starter and then send out a half-dozen, hard-scrabble relievers who give up nothing and, you know, win it in the 13th.
Manny Machado and J.J. Hardy hit 13th-inning doubles to break a 1-1 deadlock and send this series to a decisive fifth game at Yankee Stadium tonight.
The Orioles and Yankees have played 22 games this year and now have 11 wins apiece. Now it comes down to one game, one team goes on, one team goes home.
“Well, it’s kind of what we’ve been used to the whole year,” said Yankee manager Joe Girardi. “It’s been a grind the whole year. You know, it’s been a fight to stay ahead of this club the whole year, and it’s pretty fitting.”
The Orioles have been resilient all year and early on in Game 4 Thursday had several chances to get some leverage but, especially in October, something seems to happen along about the sixth inning at Yankee Stadium and whatever it is, it’s seldom good for the opposition.
But not this night. After Nate Mclouth had staked the Orioles to a 1-0 lead with a solo home run in the fifth and then protected that lead with a great catch at the wall in left field in the bottom of the inning, the Yankees tried to impose their will on the game.
They scored a single run in the sixth, with gimpy-legged Derek Jeter showing the way. They had two runners on in each of the seventh and eighth innings and couldn’t push the go-ahead run across.
The Baltimore bullpen pitched 7.1 innings of scoreless relief, led by Darren O’Day’s 2.2 no-hit innings. Jim Johnson finished it off in the bottom of the 13th for the 1-2-3 save.
“I am so proud of our bullpen,” said Baltimore manager Buck Showalter. “We needed all our bullets out there tonight. We have been able to pass the load around among everybody out there. It’s unusual to have so many passes of the baton without dropping it.”
Truth is, neither of these teams have done much of anything offensively in this series. The batting averages on both sides look like clearance price tags at a dollar store: Matt Wieters .118, Jim Thome .083, Manny Machado .143, Adam Jones .105, Curtis Granderson .063, Robinson Cano .111, Alex Rodriguez .125, Swisher .133.
Between them, the two teams have hit, combined, barely over .200 in the series.
Starters Phil Hughes and Joe Saunders each delivered a playoff-worthy performance. Hughes gave up the homer to McLouth leading off the fifth inning for the game’s first run and while he had plenty of baserunners to deal with, was able to make big pitches when it counted. In the end, he worked 6.2 innings, gave up four hits, walked three and struck out eight. After the Mclouth homer, he erased the last eight men he faced, leaving with the game tied 1-1 with two outs in the seventh.
McLouth probably saved his team a run in the bottom of the fifth when he tracked down a long fly ball with a nice catch at the wall off the bat of shortstop Jayson Nix, then doubled up Yankee catcher Russell Martin who had already rounded the bag at second base.
Saunders sailed along on a shutout through five but Jeter’s leadoff double in the sixth set up the Yankees to tie the game after Ichiro Suzuki’s sacrifice put him on third with one out. Jeter was able to score on a routine ground out to second base by Cano.
McLouth admitted the Wednesday game was a crushing defeat but the Orioles have been overcoming challenges all season.
“That was a tough one, there’s no doubt about that,” he said. “But I think kind of one of the trademarks of this team, ever since I’ve been here anyways, has been to move past difficult games and adverse situations like that.”
McLouth was signed off the baseball scrap-heap after he was released by the Pittsburgh Pirates in late May. He was a bench player until August when he took over in left field and has been a big contributor down the stretch and especially in this series.
“It’s pretty special, and I think that’s something I’ll be able to reflect on a little bit more once we’re done, which is hopefully not for a little while here.”
Earlier in the day, word leaked out that Girardi has been quietly dealing with the death of his 81-year-old father, Jerry, since last Saturday, managing with a heavy heart throughout this series.
“I didn’t say anything because I knew talking about it would even make it harder,” said the Yankee manager. “I didn’t want to have to deal with it with the team and to have the team have to deal with it. That’s a strong group in (the clubhouse) and I’m glad I have them behind me.”