The story of this game, had the Orioles managed to lose it, might have been one of baserunning miscues. In the 6th-8th innings, trailing 4-3, the O's managed to have two outs recorded on plays at the plate, and another out between second and third due to blunders. Then when the score was tied, there was another by Robert Andino, who, representing the go-ahead run (having finally gotten the hit that could score an Oriole rather than be thrown out at the plate) was thrown out trying to steal third base.
One of the cardinal rules of baseball, of course, is that you should never make the first or third out at third base. Andino was already in scoring position. Had the Orioles lost the game, this would have been the story of the day. As fate would have it, Andino's still the story of the game, but his is one of redemption. In the bottom of the 10th inning, Andino came up to bat with one man out and two men on base and he sharply grounded a ball past the diving Eric Chavez. Nolan Reimold - who was on second after an infield single and a Chris Davis walk - motored around third to give the O's a 5-4 victory. This season, there's been a lot more Orioles Tragic than Orioles Magic, and Andino gave us some of the Tragic today, but when he got another chance he delivered the Magic instead.
In some ways, the whole of the season has been a story of redemption for Andino. He talked in interviews after spring training about how, in making the roster, he felt like this was the first time in his life he was given an opportunity and didn't screw it up. As the team was beset by injuries or ineffectiveness in the infield, it's been Andino to fill the gaps - Andino who was one of a handful of Orioles with no expectations of him whatsoever, and thus, Andino who is more or less the only Oriole to exceed expectations in this disappointing season.
After last year's pu pu platter of second base replacements who were butchers in either the field or at the plate, if not both, Andino's brought a little stability to the infield and hasn't completely sucked along the way. What does it say about the Orioles that this is the most feel-good story a fan can come up with? Well, not much good, but who cares about that? Today our favorite team sent the Evil Empire down in flames in dramatic fashion in extra innings, and Andino was the ultimate agent to deliver that destruction.
No one can fault you if you're too numb from all the losing to take even a little joy out of the sight of Andino on the post-game interview with his head on a swivel as he looked for the shaving cream pie. But you might be a little happier if you let yourself enjoy the triumphs, however small and ultimately insignificant they may be.
Things looked like they would be going in a totally different direction early on. Alfredo Simon had a tough day for the Orioles, giving up three runs in the second inning and one in the third. He battled control problems and it looked like he might get chased before even completing the second frame. Simon ultimately made it four innings, giving up four earned runs on six hits and six walks. He was fortunate to escape with less.
On the other side of the coin was Ivan Nova, who entered the game having won his past nine starts, and with the Yankees having won his past twelve starts. None of that guaranteed a victory today. Nova went only 5.1 innings with five hits and three walks surrendered, including a solo home run to Vladimir Guerrero. Vlad entered the day with a 4-6 with a HR off Nova, and he got a double today as well, so now he's 6-9 with two HR. How about that? Vlad, it seems, still has some game in his legs, and some veteran savvy to stick it to a young pitcher.
With Nova chased fairly early, that meant several innings where the Orioles could face the weak part of the Yankees bullpen - the non-Robertson and -Rivera parts, with Robertson having pitched in the past two games and Rivera earmarked for the 9th inning. They tried to do so but got in their own way too much. Chris Davis was in scoring position with one out in the 6th, having just doubled home Reimold to cut the deficit to 4-3. Andino hit a grounder that reliever Luis Ayala speared. Davis was breaking to third and caught in a rundown. Threat neutralized!
A similar story played out in the 7th. Nick Markakis led off with a walk. After an Adam Jones shallow flyout, Vlad whacked a double to right center, which Yankees center fielder Curtis Granderson chased down and cut off before it rolled onto the warning track. Despite this, Markakis was sent home. Granderson hit his cutoff man on the bounce and the cutoff man (I think Robinson Cano) fired a strike to Cervelli, who was blocking home. Ray Lewis would have been proud of the shoulder Markakis threw into Cervelli as they collided. Cervelli's helmet was left spinning in the dirt after, but he held on to the ball and Nick was out. He never should have been sent.
Just for good measure, the Orioles did something similar in the 8th. Big-bucks free agent Rafael Soriano was on to pitch. Mark Reynolds led off with a single, gaining second base when Brett Gardner bobbled the ball in left field. Reimold flew out, then came yesterday's platinum sombrero winner Davis. He had a little redemption of his own today with a 3-4 including a walk, and no strikeouts. One of those hits came in this spot: a single to center. Reynolds was sent and thrown out at the plate. He never should have been sent.
The third time was the charm. The next batter was Andino and he brought in the tying run.
For the second straight game, the bullpen was a bit of an unsung hero. A parade of five relievers held the Yankees scoreless for six innings, including 2.1 IP from Jo-Jo Reyes, and 1.1 IP from none other than Kevin Gregg, who had 4 Ks and only one walk. Jeremy Accardo, Troy Patton and Clay Rapada also contributed, with Rapada getting the win.
Today's win closes the book on the 2011 series between the O's and the Yankees, with the Orioles mustering only a 5-13 record. They won the last two, though, despite all the crazy circumstances surrounding them, so they can head off to Toronto for the weekend series feeling good about themselves for once. Brett Cecil and Jeremy Guthrie are set to be the starters for the opening game of the series on Friday at the standard Canadian 7:07pm start time.