Tonight was Derek Jeter night in Baltimore and the classless Orioles completely ruined it. First the pitchers actually tried to get Jeter out instead of letting him reach base, and the living legend went 0-for-4 on the night. Then they rudely scored two runs in the bottom of the ninth to win the game and send Jeter and his Yankees home sad, having lost three out of four games in the series. Did no one tell the Birds that this was Derek Jeter's special day?
Seriously, though, this was one heck of a game that looked like it wouldn't end up in the O's favor. But then, all of the sudden, it did. Both Chris Tillman and Hiroki Kuroda pitched a heck of a game, limiting the opposing team to just one run. It ended up being a game decided with relief pitchers on the mound, and while both made mistakes, the O's got the last laugh.
Let's start with Tillman. After an easy first inning, Martin Prado led off the second with a home run to left field. Replays showed that Alejandro De Aza probably should have made the catch. The ball landed in the first row as it sailed right next to De Aza's glove. John Lackey would call that a Camden Yards home run. It looked like the wheels might fall off for Tillman after that, but he got it together. Two batters after the home run the Yankees had runners on the corners with no outs thanks to two singles and a throwing error by De Aza (it was not the best inning he's ever had). But Tillman didn't allow another run to come in, sandwiching two strikeouts around a pop up to strand the runners.
Tillman cruised through the next four innings, allowing just two baserunners. In the fifth inning, Stephen Drew hit an infield single against the shift, and in the sixth inning Prado singled on a ground ball that just evaded second baseman Jonathan Schoop. The Yankees just were not getting solid hits against him. Tillman hasn't been much of a strikeout pitcher this season, but he got six tonight, all of which were swinging. He definitely had the curve ball walking tonight.
Unfortunately, Kuroda was matching Tillman pitch for pitch. Through the first four innings, the Orioles had just one baserunner thanks to a J.J. Hardy double. Their second baserunner was also Hardy, who reached on an infield single in the fifth. With two outs, Nick Hundley blooped a single into right field, but Jonathan Schoop grounded out to strand them.
Finally in the sixth inning, the Orioles got on the board. De Aza singled to center and then came in to score all the way from first on a double down the left field line by Adam Jones. Pearce also reached base in the inning but one run was all they got.
Tillman started the seventh inning and issued his very first walk of the game with one out. He walked Chris Young on a full count and then threw an absurd wild pitch that bounced way in front of the plate. Young went to second base, then to third on a ground out. Tillman looked pooped, and Buck Showalter pulled him in favor of Andrew Miller. Miller came in to face pinch hitter Carlos Beltran. Miller should have struck Beltran out looking on three pitches, but the umpire was so busy flinching at the nasty movement on Miller's slider that he missed the call. No matter, Miller just got Beltran out swinging on the very next pitch.
After Miller pitched an equally nasty top of the eighth, the Yankees countered with their own excellent relief pitcher. Dellin Betances came in to pitch in relief of Kuroda, and the Orioles couldn't do anything with him. Betances struck out both Nick Markakis and Adam Jones and got a fly ball out from De Aza. Betances looked outstanding, but thank goodness for the Orioles, Joe Girardi's binder says that David Robertson pitches the ninth inning.
Both Zach Britton and Darren O'Day were warming up as the tie ballgame went into the ninth inning. It was O'Day who got the call, and it turns out that was maybe the wrong decision. He did strike out Prado, but then gave up a home run to Brian McCann. That gave the Yankees a 2-1 lead and made me sad. O'Day also looked sad, but he got out of the inning without any more trouble.
The great thing about this team is that they're not out of the game until the 27th out is made. And the lucky thing for the Orioles was that Girardi pulled Betances for closer David Robertson, who had already pitched on the previous two days. Robertson looked like he was going to walk Nelson Cruz, but on a 3-1 count Cruz went to left field with a leadoff double. Quintin Berry replaced Cruz at second, then Steve Pearce hit a double of his own. Cruz probably could have scored on that, but it's fun to see Berry run really fast.
With the game tied, J.J. Hardy tried to move the runner up but failed, hitting a fly ball out to right field that Pearce could not advance on. But that's OK, J.J., because Kelly Johnson has your back! Johnson launched a ball into the right-center field gap that easily scored Steve Pearce. The O's ran out onto the field to mob Pearce at home plate and Johnson in the field. O's win! O's win!
Never count this team out, guys. Tomorrow the Blue Jays come to town for a three-game set. If the Orioles can win the series, they'll clinch the American League East. I love baseball.