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Orioles hang on, take Game 2 from Yanks, 3-2

The Baltimore Orioles will travel to New York after defeating the Yankees, 3-2, in Game 2 to even up the series.

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Should Ichiro have been called out?

Monday night in Game 2 of an American League Division Series, Ichiro Suzuki dazzled baseball fans around with the world with his acrobatic slide to score the game's first run. But should the umpire have called him out? What do the rules say?


Orioles' bullpen hangs on for Game 2 win, 3-2

Orioles starter Wei-Yin Chen and a trio of relievers held down the Yankees in Game 2, with closer Jim Johnson pitching brilliantly in the 9th after giving up five runs in Game 1.


The magical Matusz gets Orioles to ninth with lead

Sean Doolittle was a first baseman before last season, and he threw exactly one inning in rookie ball. Now he's the ace lefty setup man for a division winner. That's the story of the year, bullpen or otherwise.

But Brian Matusz has to be a close second. After having one of the most miserable seasons in baseball history, Matusz didn't fare much better this season. As a starter, he was 5-10 with a 5.42 ERA, poor walk numbers, and a mediocre strikeout rate. The Orioles sent him to the minors, and he was okay, little more.

Then he came up as a late-inning specialist and became unhittable. Okay.

Matusz faced 47 batters out of the bullpen in the regular season. He allowed five hits and three walks. In Game 2, he came in for the seventh and got Nick Swisher with two on and two out. He stayed in for the next inning, allowed a single, then struck out Russell Martin looking and Curtis Granderson swinging at a 55-foot breaking ball. Eduardo Nunez popped out to end the inning, and Matusz left unscathed again.

I don't even know why you're reading this. I don't know anything about baseball. No one knows anything about baseball. We should probably just watch it and stop thinking so much.


Orioles cling to 3-2 lead after scary 7th

Heading into the top of the seventh inning, Wei-Yin Chen had limited the Yankees to just one run -- scored by the first batter in the game, actually -- but he'd thrown 96 pitches and sidearmer Darren O'Day was already getting loose in the bullpen. Buck Showalter was hoping for the best, but prepared for the worst.

The worst luck, as it were.

Designated hitter Eduardo Nunez led off with a fly ball into short right field, where converted first baseman Chris Davis made a diving try but couldn't make the play; when the ball bounced away from Davis, Nuñez made it to second base.

That brought up Derek Jeter. Chen had fallen well behind Nuñez in the count, but he got way ahead of Jeter, pounding the strike zone with fastballs (as usual). With the count 0-and-2, Chen jammed Jeter with a fastball ... and Jeter poked a bingle into short left field, Nuñez scoring easily.

Ichiro came up next, and Chen got him on a fielder's choice. That was Chen's 112th pitch, and with Alex Rodriguez coming up, Showalter replaced the left-handed Chen with the right-handed O'Day.

The count to Rodriguez went full before he finally struck out on one of O'Day's patented Frisbee sliders, while Ichiro was swiping second base. That brought another visit from Showalter, who summoned hard-throwing left-hander Brian Matusz to face hard-hitting left-handed (hitter) Robinson Cano.

Or not. Somewhat bizarrely, Showalter ordered an intentional walk, setting up a match-up between Matusz and switch-hitting Nick Swisher. Showalter's rationale? You'll have to ask him later, but it was probably related to Swisher's history against Matusz: one hit in 19 at-bats.

At the time, it seemed like the most important moment in the game.

Matusz's first pitch to Swisher went right through catcher Matt Wieters' wickets; Ichiro and Cano both advanced 90 feet. Just a single would probably cost the Orioles their fragile lead.

But on a full count, Matusz threw Swisher a low fastball that Swisher lofted high into the night; eventually it came to rest in Nate McLouth's glove.

Crisis met, and mostly averted. The Yankees have six more outs to work with, and they're down 3-2.

Oh, and one more thing ... the Orioles haven't lost a game in 2012 in which they owned the lead after seven innings.


Orioles tack on another run, lead 3-1

The Orioles had the Yankees right where they wanted them, leading by a single run in the late innings. But they got greedy and scored another one, giving them a two-run cushion. This isn't Orioles baseball, everyone. They're like Icarus, flying too close to the sun on wings made of insurance runs.

But they ain't giving the run back. In the sixth inning, Matt Wieters led off with a double -- a low liner that was quick enough to get into the gap. Mark Reynolds followed with a sharp grounder through the right side that scored Wieters without a throw. With a runner on first, no outs, and a run in, the Yankees bullpen began to stir.

But Jim Thome struck out, and Manny Machado bounced a first-pitch change-up into a 1-4-3 double play to get out of the inning.

The run makes it a little harder for the Orioles to reach extra innings, too, so things aren't looking good for the guys in orange.


Pettitte pitches around Jeter's miscue, still 2-1

With the Orioles leading the Yankees 2-1, Mark Reynolds led off the bottom of the fourth inning with a grounder toward Captain Shortstop Derek Jeter. He gathered the spheroid in good order, but his throw firstward was just a bit high and a leaping Mark "Tex" Teixeira couldn't complete the out-making play. Up in the booth, a team official scorers determined that an average major-league shortstop making just "ordinary effort" would have made a better throw, so Captain Shortstop was charged with an "error" ... his second in the series already.

Andy Pettitte has seen a lot of Captain Derek errors in his career, though, and pitched around this one nicely. Pettitte's got nothing on Wei-Yin Chen, though. In the top of the fifth, Chen retired the Yankees in order with only four pitches.

Heading to the bottom of the fifth, it's still 2-1, the O's just hoping to hang on for a dozen more precious outs.


Chen flirts with danger, gives it a fake number

Wei-Yin Chen almost let the game get away from him. With one out in the fourth, Mark Teixeira singled. Russell Martin then drew a walk, which was followed by a Curtis Granderson single that was hit too hard to score Teixeira. The bases were loaded, and the Yankees' designated hitter was up.

For a team with a lot of old guys who can't field that well, it's more than a little surprising that the DH in question is Eduardo Nunez. He popped out to short for the second half of the inning, bringing up Derek Jeter.

If you're looking for signs, this was probably going to be a pretty good one. If there were to be a soul-spindling, bases-loaded hit to ruin the Orioles' magical season, why not the face of the Evil Empire, who's had more individual success in the playoffs than just about any player to ever life?

But if Chen could wriggle out of the mess, maybe the Orioles had a little magic left yet.

Chen wriggled out of it. Jeter grounded out to third.

You should probably stop looking for signs. Baseball doesn't work like that.

(But if it did ...)


Orioles grab 2-1 lead in 3rd with two-out rally

So much for Andy Pettitte's Don Larsen impression.

Exactly 56 years ago today, Larsen threw a perfect game in the World Series.

Tonight in Game 2, Pettitte retired the first eight Orioles he faced, with the string finally broken by No. 9 hitter Robert Andino, who parachuted a two-out single into center field. That just seemed like bad luck for Pettitte. But Nate McLouth followed with another single to center, this one struck a bit more firmly. Pettitte walked J.J. Hardy on four pitches. And then Chris Davis laced a single into right field, with both Andino and McLouth scoring.

That made it 2-1, and it took some shoddy baserunning to keep the score right there.

Adam Jones was next, and after a long battle he sent a medium-speed ground ball toward the shortstop hole, where medium-aged Derek Jeter couldn't quite grab it. Hardy, for some reason, took a peek back at Jeter while heading toward third base. By the time he looked up to see his coaching imitating a windmill, it was too late; Hardy had already slowed down and had to stay a-huggin' third.

Here, see for yourself:


If he'd just sprinted toward third and kept his eye on his coach, he would have made the score 3-1. But he didn't, and it stayed 2-1 when Matt Wieters lifted an easy fly to center field.

Pettitte threw a ton of pitches in the frame, pushing his total for the game to 47. Wei-Yen Chen's thrown 51, and so we can expect to see plenty of both teams' relief corps.


Andy Pettitte: Freak

It seems like we've all just accepted Andy Pettitte pitching in another playoff game for the New York Yankees, his 39th. He's 40. He missed an entire season because he retired prematurely, and before that, he had an injury-marred season when he was 38. He shouldn't be here. He was done. We had moved on.

And yet ...

Pettitte is pitching well, too -- six up, six down for the Orioles through two innings. Why isn't this more surprising? Would we be this glib if Jorge Posada were back in the lineup next year? And it's the second straight season with the Yankees getting value from a previously retired pitcher -- is someone scouting Mike Mussina right now as he coaches his son's little league team?

Also of note, though, is that Wei-Yin Chen is doing a pretty good Andy Pettitte impression on the other side. But I can accept a franchise hitting on a lesser-known international free agent more than one pulling out a 40-year-old icon and dusting off the mothballs.

It's 2012, and Andy Pettitte is starting a playoff game for the Yankees. Seems like that should be a bigger deal.


Ichiro's acrobatics give Yankees 1-0 lead in 1st

That was the most amazing thing I have ever seen. Ichiro rules. Long live Ichiro. More on that in a minute!

Back in April, Taiwanese rookie Wei-Yin Chen made his major-league debut. It was a tough assignment: the star-studded New York Yankees. And the first batter Chen faced? Superduperstar Derek Jeter.

Jeter hit a home run. Welcome to the Show, kid.

Monday night in Game 2, the first batter Chen faced in his first postseason start was, of course, Derek Jeter. This time, Jeter simply ripped a line-drive single into center field. Ichiro Suzuki came up next, and first baseman Mark Reynolds drubbed Ichiro's trickling ground ball.

And then we had a little controversy! Alex Rodriguez hit a liner up the middle, but Robert Andino was shading Rodriguez up the middle and was able to make a diving grab to his right. Jeter had taken off, and Andino flipped the ball to shortstop J.J. Hardy for an easy double play. Ichiro did scamper back to his base, precluding a triple play.

Which proved REAL big a moment later. Robinson Cano drove a liner into the right-field corner. He hit it so hard, and right fielder Chris Davis's throw so good, that catcher Matt Wieters had Ichiro dead to rights when he tried to score. Out by 10 feet, as they say.

Except Ichiro did this:


The replays were pretty conclusive. Ichiro evaded both of Wieters' tag attempts, and slapped the plate to score the Yankees' first run. Wieters, in fact, never did tag him. Ichiro's done a lot of spectacular things over the years, but I suspect this one winds up on the Top 10 list.

Chen did escape the inning without out giving up any more runs. So after half an inning, the Yankees are up 1-0.


Game 2 delayed, but first pitch expected at 8:45

Monday night, Game 1 of the Yankees' and Orioles' American League Division Series was delayed by rain for roughly two-and-a-half hours. They did, of course, finally get the game in (unfortunately for the Orioles and their hometown fans who filled Oriole Park).

Well, here we go again:


Game 2's currently been delayed, but the good news is that MLB supposedly expects to play eventually, and with less of a delay than last night. We'll see. Mother Nature can seem a capricious sort ...

Update: According to Major League Baseball, the first pitch will come at 8:45 Eastern. We'll see.

Buck Showalter's Game 2 lineup features Jim Thome

Andy Pettitte, who's started only three games in the majors since June, is starting Monday night for the New York Yankees against the Baltimore Orioles in Game 2 of their Division Series. Here's the lineup that Buck Showalter has devised for this game the Orioles essentially must win if they're to have any real shot at winning the series.

1. Nate McLouth* - LF
2. J.J. Hardy - SS
3. Chris Davis* - RF
4. Adam Jones - CF
5. Matt Wieters# - C
6. Mark Reynolds - 1B
7. Jim Thome* - DH
8. Manny Machado - 3B
9. Robert Andino - 2B

You might wonder why the Orioles have three left-handed hitters in their lineup against a left-hander like Andy Pettitte. Well, actually Andy Pettitte isn't like most left-handers; he's got a smaller platoon split -- over the course of his long career, anyway -- than most left-handers. Probably because Pettitte doesn't rely overly much on his curveball; it's mostly fastballs and cutters and some change-ups.


Eduardo Nunez DHing for Yanks in Game 2

The New York Yankees will send out a similar lineup in Game 2 to the one that exploded late against the Orioles in the first game of the American League Division Series, but they'll swap out designated hitters to face lefty Wei-Yin Chen:

1. Derek Jeter - SS
2. Ichiro Suzuki* - LF
3. Alex Rodriguez - 3B
4. Robinson Cano* - 2B
5. Nick Swisher# - RF
6. Mark Teixeira# - 1B
7. Russell Martin - C
8. Curtis Granderson* - CF
9. Eduardo Nunez - DH
*. Andy Pettitte - LHP

Chen has faced the Yankees four times this year, and he's 1-2 with a 5.25 in those starts. It's probably easier to list the Yankees who haven't homered off him this year: Ichiro, Swisher, Teixeira, and Nunez have not homered off him, while the other five players in the lineup have one homer each.

Three out of the four games Chen pitched against the Yankees were at Camden Yards, too, so you can't even blame new Yankee Stadium.

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