Let's start at the very end: yes, Mark Teixeira was safe at first base after his head-first slide on the game-ending double play. You will not have to look far to find video and still-photo evidence, if you have not already found it. The Yankees were screwed by this call. Let's all begin playing Pachelbel's Canon in D on the world's smallest string quartet for them. If the Orioles should somehow go on to win the World Series this year after benefiting from that obviously wrong, totally awful call, then and only then will we be even for Jeffrey Maier. Until and unless that happens, I think I speak for all of Birdland when I offer this message from the bottom of my heart.
And now onto the rest of the game. In the ancient world, King Pyrrhus of Episius waged a war against the Romans, and he defeated them in battle at places such as Heraclea and Asculum. Yet after one such victory he is said, upon being congratulated for his victory, to have responded: "Another such victory and I am undone." The Romans could always replace their casualties, but Pyrrhus, though he had the tactical victory of the day, could not. So it may have gone for the Orioles tonight in losing Nick Markakis to a broken bone in his right hand after being hit by a C.C. Sabathia pitch. He immediately sought out trainer Richie Bancells and left the game. Upon the game's conclusion we found out he would be out for six weeks. In his post-game press conference, manager Buck Showalter tried to put an optimistic spin on it, saying, "I hope we get him back in time to play deep in the playoffs. How's that?"
It was quite the price to pay on the way to jumping back up into a tie for the lead in the American League East. The price has been paid, though, and the Orioles have done it again. At 78-61, they are tied with the Yankees and two games up over Tampa Bay with 23 games to be played. The games will now be played without Markakis leading off or in right field. Who will do either of those things? Who knows? Orioles Magic will truly be put to the test.
As for the game itself, it wasn't easy. They never can be, this year. The tying run was constantly on base in late innings, go-ahead runs at the plate or even on base as well. Pedro Strop had another mini-meltdown, with the only difference tonight being that Buck pulled him at just the right moment. Jim Johnson pulled a Kevin Gregg, loading the bases and giving up a run before ending the game on that double-play ball-that-wasn't-really-a-double-play. Yikes. Baseball really needs to get on instant replay - but for tonight, no complaints will be found in the Orioles clubhouse.
How did we get to that point? As you might expect in an Orioles game started by Joe Saunders, there was a bit of back-and-forth. Derek Jeter led off the game with a very Derek Jeter kind of hit (he had three on the night and I don't believe one went farther than the very tip of the outfield grass), moved up into scoring position on a Mark Teixeira double and scored on a sacrifice fly by Alex Rodriguez. The second inning saw damage done by Ichiro Suzuki and Russell Martin. Ouch. A 2-0 early deficit for the O's.
Just when I was settling down for a shutdown game from Sabathia, Mark Reynolds and Lew Ford hit back-to-back jacks to tie the game in the bottom of the 2nd inning. Reynolds is a man on a mission. I'm not sure what exactly his mission is but it seems like he's going to accomplish it by hitting a lot of freaking home runs, and I am okay with this. He's now up to 21 on the year, and if he stays hot like this - a big if - the idea that he could reach 30 is not insane. Ford is now batting .196, has a .255 on-base percentage, and had two crucial RBI tonight. Dan Duquette is a scary man when he gets going.
It was the Orioles who added on the runs, with J.J. Hardy coming through with a run-scoring double in the third and a solo home run in the 6th. All of these runs scored off Sabathia, who gave up the five in 6.1 innings of work, surrendering 8 hits while striking out five. Yankee Galaxy will probably continue wondering about his health.
For the Orioles, Saunders made it 5.1 innings, gave up five hits, two earned runs, walked two and struck out two. He was lifted when he walked Teixeira and gave up a hit to Robinson Cano in the 6th inning. Darren O'Day ended the threat and pitched a perfect 7th.
That meant more Strop. Perhaps Buck felt Strop needed to break the Yankee jinx. He did not do this successfully. He got a chance to pitch a clean inning and got the first two men out, but then gave up a home run to A-Rod, cutting the lead to 5-3. Strop had a hard time finding the strike zone, walking Cano, and then giving up a single to Martin. Brian Matusz, of all people, had to come on to clean up the mess, facing lefty Curtis Granderson and inducing an inning-ending popout.
Johnson made us sweat just as much in earning his 42nd save. He no longer has more saves than the Houston Astros have wins. Back-to-back singles by Suzuki and Eric Chavez were followed by a bunt single from Jeter - and as much as I bash the guy for his lucky hits, seriously, you have to give a savvy veteran some credit for sensing the moment and executing the perfect bunt to get himself on base. The sacks were full and nobody was out. The best the Orioles could hope for was a run-scoring double-play. Nick Swisher hit a ground ball just a bit too slowly for the GIDP, but they did get Chavez at second, meaning first-and-third with one out.
Thus we come full circle, with Tex's at-bat ending in the GIDP-that-wasn't, but Jerry Meals, of the blown call in that 19th inning Pirates-Braves game last year, decided that it was, and the game was over. The Orioles will take it, and so will their fans. They paid a price in winning, but win they did - 78 wins being as many as they have had since winning the final game of the 2004 season.
The final game of the series, and the last of the season against New York (unless we meet again in the playoffs, and how crazy is that to ponder?) will be tomorrow afternoon at 1:35pm. Freddy Garcia takes the mound for the Yankees, and Zach Britton will look to continue a solid string of starts as the Orioles try once more to get sole possession of first place in the division.