Between Chris Tillman's general struggles and Andy Pettitte's disgusting lifetime numbers against the Orioles, it was hard to have much confidence going into this game. Turns out, all it took for the win was a game-tying home run off of Mariano Rivera and eleven innings. The win gave the Orioles a 4-2 record on the homestand and helped the O's avoid what would have been their first sweep since Buck took over.
Chris Tillman had his troubles today, to put it lightly. He allowed 3 runs in 3.2 innings, but most alarming were the six walks he issued. Of the 85 pitches Tillman threw, only 43 were for strikes. Ugh.
The Yankees scored their first run in the top of the first when leadoff hitter Brett Gardner reached on a...wait for it...base on balls. He moved to second on a wild pitch and third on a ground out, then scored on a single up the middle by Robinson Cano.
The O's got back to even in the bottom of the first thanks to Brian Roberts and Adam Jones. Brian Bob singled to left and then stole second, just the third attempt against Andy Pettitte and his
balk fantastic pickoff move this season. He moved to third on a fly ball to right by Robert Andino. Nick Markakis annoyingly popped up on the first pitch, bringing Jones to the plate with two down. Adam alertly noted how far back third baseman Ramiro Pena was playing and dropped a gorgeous bunt between Pena and Pettitte. Roberts scored from third and Adam was safe at first. Well done, Dr. Jones!
Tillman got through the second and third innings without much trouble, allowing a single in the second and a walk in the third, but in the fourth inning things fell apart. He walked two of the first three batters (he struck out Nick Swisher between the two BBs), setting up Curtis Granderson for the RBI single to make the scored 2-1 in favor of the Yankees. That brought Austin Kearns to the plate and Tillman walked him as well, loading the bases for Pena. He hit a ground ball back to Tillman who, after bobbling for a second, got the force out at home. He couldn't get the final out, though, as Gardner was the recipient of Tillman's sixth and final walk of the day, four pitches that weren't even close to the strike zone. That forced in the the Yankees' third run and prompted Buck to remove Tillman from the game.
A two run deficit against Andy Pettitte would normally be enough to assume the loss, and those of you watching may have done just that. Pettitte did shut them down for six innings, allowing just three hits and walking only one. Luckily for the O's, today's start was Pettitte's first after an extended stay on the disabled list, so despite having thrown only 79 pitches, he did not return for the seventh.
After Joba Chamberlain struck out Adam Jones to start the seventh inning, Boone Logan was brought in to face pinch hitter Luke Scott. I'm sorry, but what kind of name is Boone Logan? At any rate, Logan retired both Scott and Ty Wigginton to finish the inning.
Corey Patterson started the eighth inning with a bunt single, his powerful hit knocking Logan from the game in favor of Kerry Wood. Matt Wieters greeted Wood with a single to right, moving Corey to third. With runners on the corners and no outs, Buck sent Felix Pie up to pinch hit. Like his bromance partner Luke Scott, lefty Felix was in day two of sitting against a southpaw starter. Unlike his bestie, Felix was successful in his pinch hitting attempt (Luke would make up for it later, though. Spoiler!) and he hit a solid single up the middle to bring home Scorey.
Then, look, I'm gonna rail about a bunt sometimes, and here is one of those times. Brian Roberts should not bunt. He just shouldn't. Runners on first and second with no outs and the doubling machine at the plate and he bunts! I am so anti. It's the eighth inning and one of the team's best hitters is giving away an out to move the runners up ninety feet. And who does he move them up for? Robert Andino. Look, I know that Andino has been decent the past few games, but let's not get crazy here. It is way better to face Andino with runners on second and third with one out than Brian Roberts with runners on first and second and none out. Especially since the runner on second is the tying run and ALREADY in scoring position!
Anyhow, Andino struck out. Shocker! After an intentional walk to Nick Markakis, Adam Jones popped up in the infield to end the threat. Pathetic. That sent the game into the ninth inning with the Yankees holding on to a one run lead, and you know what that means.
But before we get to that, I think we need to give some props to the bullpen today. The Yankees scored their third run with two outs in the fourth inning, and from then to the top of the ninth the bullpen shut them down. Matt Albers, Mark Hendrickson, and Jim Johnson did give up five hits, but they didn't walk a batter and struck out four. Well done, fellas.
As expected, Mariano Rivera came in to close the game. Yankee fan Amanda Rykoff, who I met through the Dibble Debacle, was at the game today and I had been following along with her tweets. What she wrote in the ninth inning made my stomach turn: "Crowd so loud for Mariano they might as well be playing Enter Sandman at Camden Yards." Barf. Those Yankee fans couldn't get out of town fast enough.
Luke Scott led off against Rivera, his second AB after hitting for Jake Fox earlier in the game. After watching ball one go by, Luke did what Luke does and hit his 27th home run of the year onto the flag court to tie the game at three all. Not so many people cheering for Mariano now, huh? And what did my buddy Amanda have to say about that? "They replayed Gary Thorne's call in the ballpark. 'Goodbye baseball and Mariano Rivera has blown the save!' Ouch." Now THAT's more like it. Just like that it was a brand new game. Rivera allowed a single to Patterson but got out of the inning without allowing any more runs.
Koji Uehara came in to pitch the tenth inning, and I don't think I'm the only one who felt nervous about that. But Koji had a score to settle, and he settled it by striking out the side. KOJI! KOJI! KOJI!
After a blah bottom of the tenth, Mike Gonzalez came in to pitch the eleventh and decided to give us all a heart attack. He walked pinch hitter Alex Rodriguez, who was replaced at first by Eduardo Nunez. The Marlboro Man attempted to pick Nunuz off but what he really did was throw the ball into the stands, which sent Nunez to third with no outs. He struck out Marcus Thames for the first out, then Buck called for something that I thought was, at the time, insane. He intentionally walked both Mark Teixeira and Derek Jeter to load the bases and set up the double play. The problem with that, of course, is that it put two runners in scoring position instead of one and took away any margin of error from Gonzo, who had looked pretty shaky. But Buck proved that there is a reason he's the manager, not me, as Lance Berkman grounded into a 5-4-3 double play to end the inning. Sorry to doubt you, Buck (but you were still wrong about that Brian bunt)!
Just as he did in the ninth, Luke Scott led off the eleventh inning. While it would have been amazing for Luke to hit his second home run of the game, the Yankees weren't going to give him the chance to turn on any pitches. Everything from Dave Robertson was low and away, and Luke was all, "No problem." He took a pitch to the opposite field and Thames was playing him so far off the line that he was able to cruise easily into second base, getting into scoring position for Wiggy. Wiggy has had his troubles of late, but not this time. Wiggy hit a ball the opposite way the fell between the outfielders, scoring Luke and giving the Orioles their 59th win on the year. Fantastic!