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Orioles bounce back, beat Yankees in Game 4, 2-1 in 13 innings

J.J. Hardy's 13th-inning double proved the decisive blow as the Orioles forced a decisive Game 5 by beating the Yankees in a dramatic affair.

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Orioles bust out in 13th, beat Yanks 2-1 in Game 4

None of these games have been easy, and this one sure wasn't. But somehow the Baltimore Orioles outlasted the New York Yankees for a 2-1 win, thanks to J.J. Hardy's 13th-inning double, and they'll play a decisive Game 5 on Friday.


Hardy's double gives Orioles 2-1 lead in 12th

It took the Orioles three pitches in the 13th inning to get a runner to third base.

With David Phelps on the mound, 20-year-old rookie Manny Machado drove Phelps' second pitch on a line into right-center, and slide safely into second base. Showalter didn't put the bunt on, but Nate McLouth shot a ground ball to second baseman Robinson Cano, enough to push Machado to third.

That brought the Yankees' infield in, with J.J. Hardy just looking for something that would get Machado home.

At that point, both teams were 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position (a key ingredient in a 1-1 score after 12 innings).

Make that 1 for 9. Because Hardy got something and more ...


That made it 2-1, of course. But that's not exactly a safe lead and everybody kept playing. With lefty slugger Chris Davis coming up, Joe Girardi called upon lefty relief Clay Rapada, who got Davis on a grounder, with Hardy going to third. With righty hitter Adam Jones coming up, Girardi replaced Rapada with righty Derek Lowe, and Lowe got Jones on a little comebacker.

So here we go to the bottom of the 12th. Jim Johnson will get one more shot. And so will Alex Rodriguez, who's due third in the lineup. Ho boy.


Joba Chamberlain knocked out of game by broken bat

On ESPN Radio, Dan Shulman said it's been an incredible game, and an incredible series.

And it got more incredible in the top of the 12th inning. With the game still tied 1-1, as it's been since the sixth inning, Baltimore's Matt Wieters led off against Joba Chamberlain, in for his second inning of work. After taking a pitch, Wieters parachuted a single into left field. That was nothing extraordinary; unfortunately for the Yankees, Chamberlain sawed off Wieters' bat at the handle, and the barrel helicoptered directly toward the mound. Chamberlain didn't notice until it was too late ...


Chamberlain wanted to stay in and gave a few warmup tosses the old college try, but the trainer had other ideas and Joe Girardi called on David Phelps to take over on the mound.

Phelps, after taking as much time as he liked to get loose, was up to the job. After a long battle he got Lew Ford to fly out, ditto for Mark Reynolds, and struck out Robert Andino.

Yeah. Still 1-1 in the bottom of the 12th. This probably will not last forever.


Swisher just misses (again), so on to 12th inning

Gosh, Nick Swisher just can't seem to catch a break.

Swisher entered Thursday night's Game 4 with a .172 career batting average in postseason play. And that was in 41 games.

Tonight, though, he led off the seventh inning and nearly hit a home run that would have given the Yankees a 2-1 lead. Instead his drive only reached the warning track, where Chris Davis made the catch. And in the 12th inning, he led off again and this time came even closer ...


Again, though, no luck.

Pedro Strop took over the Orioles in the 12th, and while he did almost give up one of the more dramatic home runs in Orioles history, the luck was with him and he wound up retiring the Yankees in order.

And so we're on to the 12th inning.


O'Day keeps mowing down Yankees, still 1-1 in 11th

Darren O'Day is a really good baseball pitcher.

If the Orioles somehow wind up winning this baseball game, O'Day might rank as the Number 1 Star.

In the bottom of the eighth, O'Day came into the game and retired Alex Rodriguez and Nick Swisher with two runners aboard.

In the bottom of the ninth, he retired the Yankees in order ... including, it should be mentioned at least once in flashing lights and blaring klaxons, Raul Ibanez.

In the bottom of the 10th, he got Derek Jeter and Ichiro Suzuki and, after walking Mark Texeira, Robinson Canó. Actually struck out Canó with one of his patented upshoot fastballs.

And now we're in the 11th inning, everyone still just looking for the single run that would either keep the series going for one more day, or end it in a flash of drama.


Lew Ford picked off, Yankees looking for walkoff

So, here's one thing you're really not supposed to do in the ninth inning of a tie game that you have to win:


That was Lew Ford getting picked off by Rafael Soriano.

Oh, and here's the super-best part: Ford was a pinch runner!

With one out, Jim Thome had reached on an infield single (yes, Jim Thome).

Thome's slower than your grandma, of course. So Buck Showalter sent Lew Ford in the game. And Lew Ford was going to steal second base. Except that didn't work out so well. Instead he made the second out, and Soriano struck out Mark Reynolds for the third.

So just like Game 3, we're heading to the bottom of the ninth with the Yankees just one swing away from bedlam. But the past is not prologue, and nothing is predestined.


Once more with gusto, A-Rod and Swish fall short

Maybe Buck Showalter figured he was running out of bullets.

But with the first three batters in the bottom of the eighth looking like this ...

Ichiro Suzuki LEFT
Mark Teixeira SWITCH
Robinson Cano LEFT

... it's probably fair to wonder why Showalter left right-handed reliever Luis Ayala on the mound to begin the inning. Ayala's been around for a while, and he's demonstrated a large platoon split: 678 OPS vs. right-handed hitters, 811 vs. left-handed hitters. So perhaps it shouldn't have been a surprise when Ichiro singled, and so did Teixeira.

That got Showalter out of the dugout, as he summoned left-hander Brian Matusz to face Canó. And Matusz did retire Canó, but on a ground ball to second base that moved both runners up. Just a measly fly ball to somewhere in the middle of the outfield, and the Yankees would probably grab their first lead of the game.

Ah, but Showalter still had not one, but two secret weapons at his disposal: Alex Rodriguez and Nick Swisher.

Oh, he also had right-handed sidearmer Darren O'Day. Who struck out Alex Rodriguez and got Nick Swisher on -- one out too late! -- a measly fly ball to right field.

Sorry, we can't resist ...


Here we go again, heading to another ninth inning with the game tied 1-1. And somewhere, Raul Ibañez lurks...


Oriole bullpen squelches Yankees in 7th, still 1-1

So you know Nick Swisher has the worst postseason statistics in the history of, not only the postseason, but also statistics generally.

When Swisher led off the seventh, he almost made up for all of that -- well, most of it; well, some of it -- with one swing. He picked on Tommy Hunter's first pitch, put a real good swing on it, and drove a long fly ball to deep right field where ... Chris Davis camped on the warning track and made the catch. Leaving Swisher to wonder just what he has to do.

Russell Martin lofted Hunter's first pitch into right field, too. But not nearly as far into right field. It was shallow enough for second baseman Ryan Flaherty to do his best Pete Kozma impression:


Well, it wasn't perfect. At least Flaherty got plenty of leather on the ball. Too much, actually.

It wasn't Hunter's fault, but Buck Showalter summoned Troy Patton from the bullpen to face Curtis Granderson, who lofted an easy fly to left field (where it was actually caught). But Showalter wasn't finished, because Patton gave up a line-drive single to Jayson Nix.

With Derek Jeter coming up. So Showalter brought in right-hander Luis Ayala, who hadn't pitched in more than a week.

Ayala's a tough pitcher. Jeter's a tough hitter.

Ayala threw a ball, then started pounding the strike zone. Jeter took a couple of strike, then fouled a few off. And then Ayala made what was, at least according to the guy who mattered, a perfect pitch:


I don't know. Looks pretty good to me.

And so it goes. After seven innings, this one's still tied at one run apiece.


Yanks tie game, 1-1, on Cano grounder

Derek Jeter opened the bottom of the sixth with a double down the line. Even with his achey, breaky foot, Jeter could easily motor into second. Ichiro Suzuki came up next, laying down a nice bunt that almost became a hit.

Mark Teixeira walked, bringing up Robinson Cano, who chopped a ball to the right side, but it was hit just a little too slowly for the O's to turn two:

The run scored, tying the game at 1-1. With the right-hander Alex Rodriguez coming up, Buck Showalter pulled Joe Saunders, who ended up with a mirror image of his start in the Wild Card game in Texas: 5⅓, one run allowed.

He was relieved by Tommy Hunter, who apparently throws 97 now. Did you know that? I didn't know that. And I'm thinking Alex Rodriguez didn't know that either, as he waved through a 97-m.p.h. fastball for strike three and left to a chorus of people chanting for Jay Bruce.


Yankees' would-be homer becomes actual double play

Well, nobody drew up the bottom of the fifth inning exactly that way. But the Orioles couldn't be more happy, the Yankees more unhappy.

Russell Martin led off the frame with a walk. That brought up Curtis Granderson, who's struggled against left-handed pitchers this season, which might be why Joe Girardi asked him to drop a sacrifice bunt. Saunders' first pitch was low, and Granderson fouled it off. Saunders' second pitch was high, and Granderson fouled it off. That took the bunt off the table. And after a ball, Granderson waved at a slurve.

Next up? Jayson Nix, in the game only because Derek Jeter's a little gimpy and is DH'ing. Wednesday night, Nix almost hit a huge home run. Wednesday night, Nix almost hit a huge home run. Almost:


It's rare that you'll see a runner doubled off first base by more feet than Russell Martin was doubled off first base there.

It's a game of inches and feet, and to this point the Orioles are winning the battle of inches and feet. But just barely, as the score remains Orioles 1, Yankees 0.


Nate McLouth (!) swats homer, O's up 1-0

Nate McLouth homered for the Orioles in a playoff game. I'll keep running this into the ground because it's earnest, sincere amazement.

In January, the Orioles were supposed to finish sixth in the A.L. East, and they had a chance to be the first team to lose 100 games in both the American and National Leagues.

McLouth was an afterthought, a spring-training invite that'd make you chuckle until it made you scared that he'd actually make the roster of your favorite team.

In October, they're trying to take down the Yankees. This just doesn't get old.

McLouth took the first two pitches from Phil Hughes, digging himself an 0-2 hole. But on a 1-2 count, McLouth drilled a fastball deep into right-center, giving the Orioles a 1-0 lead.

Hughes has thrown 81 pitches through five innings, with just 48 for strikes. He walked the leadoff hitters in the second, third, and fourth innings.


Saunders stops Yanks again, still scoreless in 5th

Past isn't necessarily prologue, nothing is predestined, and the Orioles might win this game 11-3.

Still, you can't help wondering if these missed opportunities are the best they'll have all night.

In the first inning, the Orioles' first two batters reached base but nobody scored.

In the second, the Orioles' first two batters reached base but nobody scored.

In the fourth, they got a first-and-third situation with two outs, and again nobody scored.

That's ... gears whirring, tumblers tumbling ... six runners left aboard in four innings.

By most measures, Joe Saunders has seriously out-pitched Phil Hughes; thanks a sharp curveball, Saunders has given up just two hits while walking two Yankees and striking out four. By the way, one of those walks and one of those hits were courtesy of Alex Rodriguez, who might actually not be terrible.

The bottom of the fourth ended when Nick Swisher grounded into a double play. He's now batting .073 in 954 career postseason at-bats. Yankees fans are probably hoping the Mariners sign him tonight.

Saunders isn't exactly anyone's idea of a Hall of Fame candidate. But if he can follow up his solid (and winning) performance in the Wild Card Game against the Rangers with a solid (and winning) performance in this one, he'll win a special place for himself in Orioles lore.

But his teammates have to score.


Orioles, Yankees threaten, but no score yet

There are Orioles fans out there who are a) adults, and b) have never really followed their team in the playoffs. Maybe they were just a grade-schooler in 1997. Who knows? Jeffrey Maier was born in the same year as James Loney and Jonathan Broxton, for example of how long ago it's been.

And they approached these playoffs with such optimism! But no one could prepare them for the stress. And in the playoffs, when your team doesn't execute, there's stress. Manny Machado led off the second inning with a walk (good), and Nate McLouth doubled him to third (even better). Phil Hughes was in a pickle.

But J.J. Hardy grounded back to the pitcher, which turned into a fielder's choice with Machado breaking on the contact play. With runners on first and third with one out, Chris Davis waved at an ugly breaking ball for strike three. Adam Jones grounded out to end the inning.

These things aren't so fun, are they? Also, that whole Ibanez thing from yesterday probably let you in on that. I'll shut up now.

The good news is that it cuts both ways. Jayson Nix opened the bottom-half of the inning with a double, setting it up well for the top of the order. But Joe Saunders struck out Derek Jeter, Ichiro Suzuki, and Mark Teixeira -- all swinging -- to get out of the inning. Just like Nix to set it up, and the rest of the Yankees to let him down. It's still scoreless after three.


Orioles get the roll, not the runs

It's Game 4 of the American League Division Series, and Joe Saunders is starting for the Baltimore Orioles. This is not a drill.

Also not a drill: Nate McLouth leading off for the Orioles in the playoffs. I feel like that's something I should write on a sandwich board and wear as I wander around the city with a glazed look. But McLouth has been excellent for the O's, and in the top of the first, he drew an eight-pitch walk against Phil Hughes.

The walk led to a bunt, because when you're playing behind Joe Saunders, one run is usually enough. The bunt in question:

That would be a base hit, and it would put runners on first and second with no one out. But Hughes would get Chris Davis, Adam Jones, and Matt Wieters on consecutive fly outs, and the rally was quashed.

In the bottom of the first, Saunders allowed a walk to Mark Teixeira, but got out of the jam by getting Robinson Cano to pop out.

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