After yet another dismal starting pitching outing combined with a brain fart on defense at the worst time, the Orioles were headed towards another bummer of a loss - or so it seemed at the time. The O's kept scratching and clawing against the Yankees and eventually, as the clock crept towards 1 o'clock in the morning, Manny Machado crushed a walkoff home run to give the O's a dramatic 7-6 victory.
In a lot of ways, the Orioles had no business winning this game. Jeremy Hellickson wasn't able to finish the third inning, and even though he wasn't in the game for long, he still walked four batters. An Adam Jones miscue cost the Orioles a total of three unearned runs. It all added up to the Yankees hanging a six spot on the O's in the third inning of the game, erasing an early Orioles lead. Those O's fans who waited out a 2:14 rain delay must not have felt fortunate to be there.
With CC Sabathia on the mound for the Yankees, you would be forgiven for thinking that would be that. After all, the Orioles have played a lamentable number of games this season where they look nothing like a playoff team. They were on course for another one of these... and then they started hitting home runs and didn't stop hitting home runs. The Yankees, on the other hand, shut down.
The O's did get on the board first in the bottom of the first inning, picking up a run on a little two out rally that began with a Jonathan Schoop walk. Schoop made it to second base with an Adam Jones infield single and moved up to third when Sabathia threw a wild pitch.
Trey Mancini hit a slow roller past Sabathia that Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorius couldn't get a handle on. The play, in effect a swinging bunt, prompted MASN's Jim Palmer to remark, "If you're not wearing a knee brace and you're not 37, you might be able to field that ball." Sabathia was recently incensed by the Red Sox repeatedly bunting on him.
Mancini got an RBI on the play and the O's got the lead. It didn't last for long.
Even before the third inning, Hellickson was walking people. He walked the first two batters he faced after the O's grabbed that 1-0 lead before escaping the jam. The third inning brought another jam as a single, walk, and hit by pitch loaded the bases for the Yankees with just one out.
Gregorius drove in two runs with a single to right field, giving the Yankees the lead. After Hellickson walked Matt Holliday to again load the bases, manager Buck Showalter got out the vaudeville hook and yanked Hellickson off the stage.
Richard Bleier inherited this dangerous situation. He got Greg Bird to hit a lazy fly ball to center field, about medium depth. Jones got under the ball, went to catch it with two hands, and then, perhaps getting a little ahead of himself trying to throw out a tagging runner, had the ball deflect off his glove. Everyone was safe and the run scored anyway on the error instead of the second out of the inning.
With just one out, what would have been a harmless groundout to end the inning scored another run, and a Jacoby Ellsbury single drove in two more Yankees runs. Hellickson was charged with five runs, three earned, in just 2.1 innings. Bleier also let a run cross, though it was unearned. As the inning finally ended, the Yankees had what seemed like a commanding 6-1 lead.
As bad as the O's rotation can be at times, they are never totally out of any game. Machado, engaged in a home run-hitting dogfight with his buddy Schoop, bombed one to center field for his 31st home run of the season, taking the team lead. He and Schoop both began the night with 30 homers.
Not to be out-done, Schoop hit his own home run in the fifth inning to get back even with Machado. The two solo shots pulled the O's back within three runs. With several innings to go and within Earl Weaver Special range, hope, dim as it was, remained.
Leading off the sixth inning, Mancini turned another grounder into an infield single. This brought Mark "Piebane" Trumbo to the plate. As Sabathia's pitch count crept towards 100, he left a pitch in the wrong place for Trumbo, who made the ball land in the left field seats.
This was Trumbo's 21st homer of the year. In the dugout, they did not shower him with sunflower seeds, as is customary. A once-lost game was now within just one run.
For Sabathia, it was the first time all year he had allowed three home runs. He hadn't allowed five or more runs since May 9, a streak of 15 starts without doing so. He faced the Orioles on the wrong night. Too bad, so sad.
Showalter used his less-significant relievers to chew up a few innings. Bleier ended up pitching an inning. Jimmy Yacabonis added another 1.2 innings, and Ubaldo Jimenez chipped in with a scoreless inning of his own. With the same suddenly interesting, it was time to use the real relievers. Darren O'Day, Brad Brach, and Zach Britton kept the party going with a scoreless inning apiece.
Facing the dangerous back end of the Yankees bullpen, the O's were unable to get anything going in the seventh or eighth innings. In a somewhat curious choice, Aroldis Chapman pitched the eighth against the O's 5-6-7 hitters - though Chapman was rather bad in August. That set up the ninth for Dellin Betances, a man who has struck out 40% of the batters he has faced this year.
Betances made quick work of Welington Castillo and pinch hitter Pedro Alvarez, bringing everything down to Tim Beckham. The O's shortstop was hitless on the night heading into this appearance. He stayed patient and worked a walk, putting the tying run on base with Machado waiting behind him.
Machado watched one ball sail past. Then he saw his pitch, took his swing, and crushed it into the Yankees bullpen. It was one of the most effortless massive home run swings you will see. The Yankees outfielders gave up on it long before it landed.
The Orioles were in the win column in dramatic fashion and Machado was back above Schoop in the home run column with his 32nd of the year. This team is really awful sometimes, but dang it, sometimes they're really awesome, too.
With this win, Showalter picked up the 1,500th win of his career as an MLB manager. That's good for 23rd all time. Fifteen of those ahead of him are in the Hall of Fame. Another three are still active. He'll surely say that the most important thing is that the Orioles won their 71st game.
The win brings the Orioles within a half-game of the Twins for the second wild card spot. The Twins lost to the Rays earlier on Tuesday. Their exact standing is pending an Angels result that's still not finished even though I'm writing this at 1:30am.
This wild win won't mean as much if the O's can't follow up and take the series tomorrow night. Kevin Gausman and Sonny Gray are scheduled to start the 7:05 finale, unless rain intervenes again. The door is wide open for the O's. Maybe they can walk through and go somewhere good.
Who was the Most Birdland Player for the game that began on September 5, 2017?
This poll is closed
Manny Machado (walkoff home run, duh)
Jonathan Schoop (ongoing homer competition with Machado)