The Orioles lost the ALDS to the Yankees last year in teeth-gnashing fashion, with most of the games being very close affairs. For awhile, their first meeting since that series was looking like a repeat.
Miguel Gonzalez did his job tonight, even if he didn't do it very well. He let only two earned runs cross the plate, but his overall line was not encouraging: 5 H, 4 K, 5 BB, 1 HBP. Still, it was enough to keep the game at a 2-2 score through the first six innings.
Gonzalez left in the 7th after walking Francisco Cervelli to start the inning. He probably thought he'd get a no-decision after Troy Patton came in and got two outs. Alas, it was not to be. With two out and Cervelli on third, Patton was ordered to walk Kevin Youkilis intentionally. This put runners at the corners and brought Travis Hafner to the plate. Hafner worked the count to 3-2 before getting plunked on the inside of his left thigh for an HBP. Patton was visibly upset with himself, knowing he should've retired Hafner and gotten out of the inning. Instead, Pedro Strop came in to face Vernon Wells.
So, bottom of the 7th, bases loaded, two outs, 2-2 tie, Strop vs. Wells. Pedro threw a front-door slider that missed the inside corner for ball one. He cranked a 96 MPH two-seam fastball that just missed, low and away, for ball two. He took a little bit off his four-seam fastball to throw it for a strike; it was 94 MPH away and a few inches above the belt. Wells swung and connected.
Up and up the ball went, and with it went my heart as it leapt into my throat. I watched Adam Jones run back, and back, and back ... waiting for some sign he thought he'd be able to catch it. Finally, he stuck up his glove, still running, when the ball came into view ... and clanked off the inside of his glove.
Chaos. Pandemonium. I'm sure my next-door neighbors wondered what I was screaming and swearing about. The ball dropped meekly. All three runners scored. 5-2 Yankees. That's all they needed, and they did it without a hit -- it went walk, out, out, walk, HBP, error. Boom.
Were you thinking we might rally? That we'd get a couple of bloops and a blast and make the game interesting? You could be forgiven for thinking this way at the top of the 8th. CC Sabathia, who'd been dealing all night (9 K, 0 BB, 1 ER), gave up back-to-back singles to Alexi Casilla and Nick Markakis. With nobody out, Manny Machado came to the plate as the tying run. His home-run against the Red Sox flashed in my mind. It's possible, right?
Erm, uh, well, errr, ummm, maybe ... no, not tonight. Machado worked the count to 3-2. He then tapped a tailor-made double-play grounder right at Robinson Cano, who tossed to Jayson Nix, covering second, to force Markakis. One out; time for the double play at first, right?
Nope. Instead of throwing to first for the double play, Nix alertly threw to third. The toss from Cano had taken so little time that Casilla had not yet made it to the base. He'd been forced to run, but now that Markakis was out, it became a tag play -- meaning Casilla was caught in a rundown. He held up for as long as he could, I suppose, but in the end, Youkilis got him. Two out.
While all this was happening, Manny had rounded first on his way to second base. If he was thinking at all, he was probably hoping to get into scoring position while Casilla was using up the infielders' time. I say if he was thinking because it was a foolish notion. When you are down by three in the 8th, you generally play it safe.
But Manny is young, the situation was confusing (how often do you see a shortstop throw to third instead of first base?) and so he may have been overwhelmed. He was hung out to dry as Youkilis fired the ball to Lyle Overbay at first, trapping Manny on the basepaths. He actually made it to second base, but the ball made it to Cano's glove first.
When the dust settled, it was just your average, run-of-the-mill 4-6-5-6-5-3-4 triple play. As the music blared and the announcers summed it up, Manny could only bang his helmet in the dirt in frustration.
Ugh, I had to watch the replay in order to make sure I had all that right. Now I feel dirty. Anyway, The good news is that Tommy Hunter, who pitched the bottom of the 8th, didn't give up any home runs. The bad news is that neither did Mariano Rivera, and there you have it. 5-2 Yanks.