The Orioles fell to the Yankees today in a game that was perhaps the most heartbreaking I can ever remember watching. Up 2-1 in the 9th inning and just three outs from a win and a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five series, closer Jim Johnson gave up a game-tying home run to pinch hitter Raul Ibanez. The game went to extra innings, and nine batters later, Ibanez homered again off of Brian Matusz to end the game.
There were a lot of things to be disappointed in tonight, but I want to start with something that wasn't, and that is Miguel Gonzalez. Gonzalez went into Yankee Stadium and pitched an absolute gem. The 28-year-old rookie who before this season was out of major-league baseball completely shut down the Yankees for seven innings. It was beautiful, and it's a shame that the Orioles squandered his fine outing.
After facing just six batters in the first two innings, Gonzalez gave up his one and only run in the third. With two outs and Russell Martin on second base via a double, Derek Jeter hit a ball to deep center field. Adam Jones inexplicably broke in on the ball, and when he realized his mistake he didn't run full speed towards the wall and the ball fell out of his grasp. It was a totally catch-able ball that ended up being scored as a triple for Jeter. Gonzalez retired Ichiro Suzuki to end the inning and through the next four innings allowed just two baserunners, both on singles. He was in total control, and it was just fun to watch. He finished the game with a pitching line of 7 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 8 K.
What wasn't fun to watch tonight was the Orioles offense. J.J. Hardy, Chris Davis, Adam Jones, Matt Wieters, Jim Thome, and Mark Reynolds went a combined 2-for-26. That's your 2-7 hitters, folks.
The O's did score first, and from an unexpected source. Ryan Flaherty hit the Orioles first home run of the postseason in the top of the third inning, giving the Orioles a momentary one-run lead. Then in the fifth inning, fellow rookie Manny Machado homered to give the Orioles a 2-1 lead, and it looked like they might hold it thanks to the fantastic job by Gonzalez.
The fourth inning was the O's best chance to add on runs, as Davis led off the inning with a walk and Adam Jones followed with a single. But Matt Wieters lined out to left field and Jim Thome hit into a force out to rack up two quick outs, and leave it up to Mark Reynolds. Reynolds was hit by a pitch to load the bases, but Flaherty couldn't duplicate his earlier magic and grounded out to end the inning.
After Gonzalez exited the game, Darren O'Day came in and, as usual, was filthy. He pitched a 1-2-3 inning, paving the way for Jim Johnson to come in and lock up the win.
JJ got a quick out against Ichiro, and then Joe Girardi sent Raul Ibanez up to pinch hit for Alex Rodriguez. It seemed to be a curious move, even with A-Rod's recent struggles. But this time, the binder prevailed. Ibanez launched a game-tying homer, crushing the hopes of Orioles fans everywhere. I don't know what's going on with Jim Johnson; after being so reliable this season he's now given up runs in two of the three games this series. And while he didn't give up any runs against Texas last Friday, he did load the bases before getting out of it.
So we went to extra innings. Silly me, I thought that a game starting at 7:30 and not featuring a rain delay WOULDN'T keep me up late.
The Orioles got unlucky in the top of the 10th, with an assist from the umpire. Robert Andino, who had replaced Flaherty in the field, singled with no outs, and Machado bunted him over to second base. That brought Nate McLouth to the plate, who already had two hits on the night. Rafael Soriano was pitching for the Yankees, and he went to a 3-0 count to McLouth, then threw what was very obviously ball four. The ump didn't think so. So Soriano then threw another ball, which I'll call ball five. The ump called it strike two. Soriano went back outside again (and why not, he was getting the calls) and Nate went for it and hit a line drive that looked like it might go up the middle for a base hit. Instead, the shortstop caught it and easily doubled off Machado to end the inning.
Thanks for the ump show, Brian Gorman!
I'm not trying to imply that this one at-bat cost the Orioles the game. But when the team had already had so many awful ABs, to finally have a chance and have a hitter up there with a really good approach get totally hosed by something out of his control, well, it just stinks.
Both the Orioles and Yankees went quietly after that until the bottom of the 12th inning. Jim Johnson came back and pitched a perfect 10th, and Brian Matusz looked great in the 11th. For the Yankees, David Robertson pitched two innings with just one weird fluky infield hit by Reynolds.
Then, in the bottom of the 12th, before I had even started paying attention, Ibanez came to the plate again and launched the very first pitch that Brian Matusz threw into the second deck in right field. The end.
So this is it. If the Orioles lose tomorrow, our postseason is over. They'll send Joe Saunders to the mound to once again try to stave off elimination.