The Orioles earned themselves a much needed win this evening, but it wasn't easy. Not that that's surprising; when is it ever easy for the Orioles? Miguel Gonzalez, back from the disabled list, dazzled for seven innings and Chris Dickerson, part-time player, had two home runs in the contest. It went into extra innings tied 2-2 when Nate McLouth played the hero with a walk-off home run.
When looking at series matchups, most people picked this game as the one that would be the easiest to get the win. That's because the starting pitcher for the Yankees was Phil Hughes, who hasn't been Cy Young out there. But Hughes was on his game tonight and what we ended up with was an unlikely pitchers' duel.
The first batter Gonzalez faced, Brett Gardner, hit a fly ball to left field. McLouth got to it but it at the wall but couldn't keep the ball in his glove. It was ruled a double, and after he moved up on a fly out by Vernon Wells, Gardner came in to score on a single by Travis Hafner. It was a tough way to start the game, but Gonzalez bounced back to get out of the inning and retired the Yankees 1-2-3 in the second and third innings.
The Orioles had no luck against Hughes in the first two innings, managing just one single by McLouth in the first inning. But they tied the game 1-1 in the third inning thanks to Chris Dickerson, who was playing center field tonight with Adam Jones serving as designated hitter. Dickerson worked Hughes for an impressive ten-pitch at bat, the last of which he hit for a home run. Nice! Manny Machado and Nick Markakis each added a two-out single in the inning, but were stranded.
Gonzalez got into trouble in the fourth inning thanks to (who else) Vernon Wells and Travis Hafner. Wells doubled, then came in to score on a single by Hafner. It gave the Yankees a 2-1 lead, but that was the last misstep Gonzalaz had. He got the next three batters to end the fourth, then retired the side in order in the fifth and sixth innings. In the seventh inning he gave up a two-out single to David Adams, then Jayson Nix hit a long fly ball to the right-center field gap. It looked like it might fall in for a hit, which surely would have scored a run. But Nick Markakis made a great diving catch to end the inning.
He was great. In another circumstance he surely would have come out for the eighth, but since it was his first start back from the DL, Buck Showalter wanted to keep him at about 90 pitches. His final line: 7 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 0 BB, 5 K. He threw 92 pitches, 62 for strikes.
Hughes faced just three batters in the fourth inning thanks to a double play, and in the fifth inning Dickerson once again led off. It only took him three pitches to homer that time, again tying the game.
2-2 is where the score would stay until the bottom of the 10th inning. Tommy Hunter relieved Gonzalez and pitched the eighth and ninth innings. He was fantastic and retired all six batters he faced. For the Yankees, they used four relief pitchers in innings six through nine. Only Boone Logan allowed a hit, and David Robertson was particularly nasty, striking out the side.
And so we went to the tenth inning, the second consecutive extra inning contest. Buck Showalter turned to slumping closer Jim Johnson to hold the lead, and Johnson answered the call. His pitches didn't look all that sharp and two of the three outs against him were hit pretty hard, but he got through it. I think that in itself is a big thing, even if it's just to ease Johnson's mind.
Vidal Nuno came on to pitch the bottom of the tenth inning for the Yankees, and his first test was leadoff hitter Nate McLouth. He failed the test as McLouth hit a long fly ball to right-center field. It's going....going...gone! Ballgame over! Losing streak over! Hallelujah.