There aren't many things better in the sphere of being an Orioles fan than a day where the Orioles play the Yankees twice and beat them twice. That is the exact caper the team pulled off on Saturday, following up a 9-2 victory earlier with a 4-3 win in the nightcap. The O's took advantage of two late wild pitches to score the decisive fourth run in the eighth inning of the game.
The Saturday night hero, in a most unlikely fashion, was Paul Janish. The eighth inning began with the score tied 3-3. Yankees reliever Dellin Betances buzzed Janish's tower with a high fastball. Both benches were warned after this action; there were two Yankees hit earlier in the game. Having the familiarity that they do with Yankees manager Joe Girardi, the O's probably have some private feelings about whether or not that was on purpose. It is a little weird, admittedly - why would you decide you're going to throw at Janish?
Janish got his revenge. After all, he told Ghost Rider that the pattern was full, dang it. You've got to listen to the tower and not make him spill his coffee. No, he didn't hit a home run. He did hit the Royalest of cheap bloopers that left him on first base with a single - and the top of the lineup turning over again. That's when things got fun.
Five card draw - Betances wild
Betances throws fireballs with the best of them, which is a good thing when he throws in the approximate area of the strike zone and the hitter can't catch up to it. It's less good for him when he throws low and away out of his catcher's reach, as he did while Nolan Reimold batted. The ball went all the way to the backstop and Janish moved up to scoring position. Reimold ended up striking out, but Gerardo Parra followed up by laying down a perfect bunt for a base hit to move Janish only 90 feet away.
Lucky for the Orioles, Betances wasn't done being wild. When another ball got past catcher Brian McCann it went all the way to the backstop also and Janish scored easily. This put the Orioles up 4-3 with Zach Britton lying in wait for the ninth.
It was a three up, three down inning for Britton, although he ended up there in unusual fashion. After a Didi Gregorius groundout, Alex Rodriguez pinch hit and delivered a single for New York. He was quickly lifted for speedster Rico Noel, who twitched over at first base like a man ready to turn on the jets and burn down to second base. Awfully unfortunate for Noel, then, that Britton was expecting that; when Noel finally ran, Britton stepped off and started a 1-3-4 putout that ended when Ryan Flaherty tagged Noel as he slid into second.
The wind taken out of their sails as the tying run was wiped off base, the Yankees were down to their last out. That was third baseman Chase Headley, who hit a little chopper back to Britton. Game over, man. Game over. Britton picked up his 36th save as he closed out this game. That's one fewer than last year - and he wasn't even the closer all year last year. Neither of these things is his fault, however.
Dingers to keep you warm on a long, cold, lonely night
The contest was tied late as a result of the two starting pitchers, Ubaldo Jimenez and Luis Severino, playing effectively to a draw from their time in the game. Severino looked to be the far more effective pitcher of the two, except for the fact that he gave up those home runs to Reimold and Machado. No O's hitters walked in Severino's seven innings and he only gave up five hits. Too bad for him two of them were home runs. He also struck out six Orioles hitters.
Jimenez, on the other hand, was his usual wild self, walking guys, taking too many pitches to retire others, and so on. Jimenez even walked in a run, one of the three walks he issued on the night. That's not so good. But Jimenez battled through six innings and he made it through. Some nights that has to be enough and on Saturday night it was.
He had to fight his way through some jams to go six innings, too. Not that his defense always did him favors. The top of the fifth inning began with left fielder Steve Pearce botching what looked like a routine line drive hit by Rob Refsnyder. The play was scored as a double. Gregorius singled, at that time representing the tying run of what was a 3-1 game. Yankees right fielder Slade Heathcott drove in Refsnyder to cut the O's lead to 3-2. There was no one out and two men were in scoring position.
That's trouble, my friends, right here in River City. Say this about Ubaldo, though - if there's one thing he knows, it's pitching out of trouble. Well... knowing and doing are two different things. Jimenez cleanly fielded a comebacker by Brendan Ryan, freezing the runner at third while recording the first out. Then a pitch slipped and hit Jacoby Ellsbury, who, with his .670 OPS, is not the guy to give a free pass. Jimenez struck out Dustin Ackley and you might have almost thought he'd get out of that jam when he got a 1-2 count on the next batter, Carlos Beltran...
...except, Jimenez being Jimenez, he went from 1-2 to 4-2, forcing Gregorius across the plate as Beltran strolled down to first base. The game was tied. Jimenez, at least, drew the line there, retiring McCann on a fly ball to right field. The damage was done, but it could have been a lot worse. What's that worth? I don't know.
After Jimenez was out of the game, T.J. McFarland followed with two crucial, quiet innings. No one reached base against him. That set up the O's wild pitch-induced eighth inning run as the game-deciding score.
How to avoid a losing season
The Orioles hopes of finishing .500 are still alive. Both teams will have something to play for on Sunday afternoon. The Yankees are still fighting for the home field advantage in the American League wild card game. A win for them or a Houston loss seals it - and I'm sure they'd rather get the win. The game gets underway at the peculiar time of 3:05pm. All of the last day's games were scheduled to begin in that hour to increase the suspense or whatever.
Michael Pineda gets the ball for New York in this final regular season game, while Chris Tillman takes the ball for the O's. Tillman has no chance for a third consecutive 200+ inning season, but he does have a chance to get his season ERA below 5.00. If that's all you can say about your last start that's a pretty bad year. Nonetheless, he can do so with more than five innings of two run ball, or more than seven innings of three run ball. Well, good luck.