Orioles 5, Yankees 4: Ninth inning rally seals the win for the O's

Jim McIsaac

In a hard-fought battle that was more tense than an early April game has any right to be, the Orioles prevailed with a two-run rally in the ninth inning.

What a game. The Orioles outlasted a good outing by new Yankee Masahiro Tanaka and a rocky start from their own Miguel Gonzalez to beat the Yankees by one run and get out of New York with their first series win of the season. They took a tie into the ninth inning before roughing up relief pitcher Shawn Kelley, then survived a near meltdown by Tommy Hunter to hang on to the win.

The Orioles got on the board first tonight courtesy of rookie Jonathan Schoop, who has looked much better at the plate over the past few games. I have to admit that I thought Tanaka had impressive stuff, but he had more than a few imperfect pitches in the game. With two outs in the second inning and Matt Wieters and Ryan Flaherty on base, Tanaka left a ball up in the zone and Schoop absolutely crushed it to left field. It landed just inside the foul pole, landing in the second section of seats in left field.

The 3-0 lead didn't last long as Miguel Gonzalez gave up solo homers to Carlos Beltran and Kelly Johnson in the bottom of the second, and also walked Brian Roberts. Even the outs he got were loud, and it looked like MiGo just didn't have his stuff tonight. The Yankees tied the game in the fourth when Alfonso Soriano knocked in McCann, who had doubled earlier in the inning.

After that both teams put up zeroes every inning until the ninth. If that makes it sound like both pitchers settled down and we had a pitchers' duel on our hands. That's not entirely true. Gonzalez gave up two hits in the fifth inning but escaped without allowing a run, and though he gave up one more hit in the sixth, it may have been his best inning since the first. Despite having thrown just 85 pitches, Buck Showalter pulled MiGo from the game after the sixth inning. That was fine with me as he seemed like a ticking time bomb.

As for Tanaka, like I said, he was far from perfect, but he always got out of it after the home run. He worked around baserunners and struck out 10 batters in seven innings. That splitter that he throws that just dies when it gets over the plate was filthy and I saw more Orioles flailing at it tonight than I care to remember. For a free-swinging team like the Orioles, I fear it's going to be a long seven years of watching him carve up their lineup.

Still tied 3-3 in the eighth inning, the Orioles had a prime chance to score. Adam Jones singled and moved to second on an errant pick off throw, followed by a walk from Matt Wieters (who is winning me over with his bat so far this year, I have to say). But neither Nelson Cruz nor Steve Lombardozzi could get them in, and it felt like the Orioles were running out of time. Fortunately the Yankees blew a chance of their own in the bottom of the inning, stranding Brett Gardner after he hit a leadoff double and moved to third base with just one out. Brian Matusz came on to get Jacoby Ellsbury on a pop out and, after an intentional walk to Carlos Beltran, a routine fly ball out to center field by Brian McCann.

Then came the ninth inning. Oh, the ninth inning. It was action packed. With Shawn Kelley on for the Yankees, Ryan Flaherty doubled to right-center, then went to third on a single to nearly the same location by Jonathan Schoop. Schoop had initially tried to bunt but botched it. I liked the single much better. A single by Nick Markakis gave the Orioles the lead, and then after a single to load the bases by Delmon Young, Chris Davis hit a sacrifice fly to left field. The Orioles missed a golden chance to score more runs, though. Both runners moved up on a passed ball meaning that even another ball hit to the outfield could score a run. But Jones struck out and Wieters grounded out to end the inning.

With a two-run lead, the Orioles turned to their closer Tommy Hunter. I am telling you people now that Hunter is going to give me a heart attack at some point this season. When that happens, please send me flowers. Thank you. So Hunter just had to get three outs before allowing two runs. No problem. He started off by giving up a double to Soriano. But that's OK, it's just one run even if it scores, right? Just focus on the batter. He did get Kelly Johnson to hit a hard ground ball to first base, but Chris Davis made a terrible play and they couldn't record an out. With runners on first and third and no outs, the winning run came to the plate in the form of...Brian Roberts? Noooo! Well, yes in the sense that he's not very good, but nooooo because it would be somewhat poetic of him to be the one to hit a walk off.

BRob worked the count the way he always has, seeing seven pitches before hitting a fly ball to right field? Could it be? Is it? No. Just a long fly out to Nick Markakis. The Yankees did score their fourth run of the game on the sac fly. Super hot Yangervis Solarte was up next, and he did us all the favor of grounding into a game ending double play, securing the win for the Orioles, and saving me from a heart attack for at least one more day. Well, two, since they're off tomorrow.

O's win! They have an off day tomorrow before starting a six-game homestand on Friday against the Blue Jays and Rays.

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