Written by Paul Folkemer
In a rare one-game homestand, the Orioles were walkoff winners over the Yankees in a 5-4, 10-inning decision. Aside from the change in venue, this game was remarkably similar to the one before it. Same score. Same opponent. Extra innings again. A game-winning hit by a player who’d previously been having a miserable game (this time Robert Andino). And, just like Wednesday, the Orioles’ bullpen pitched six scoreless innings to set the stage for the Orioles’ last at-bat win. I’m getting the strangest sense of deja vu.
Welcome back to Camden Yards, Orioles! ...And, about four hours later, say goodbye to Camden Yards, Orioles! The O’s, in the midst of a long road trip, got to swing back to Baltimore for one and only one afternoon to finally play their last game of the season against the Yankees. This game was originally scheduled for April 22, but was rained out. Then it was rescheduled for an August 27 doubleheader, but was rained out again. After much bickering over the next re-scheduling, and the Yankees’ threats to protest the new date of September 8, they ultimately showed up at Camden Yards today to finish the season series. I certainly hope they’ve stopped complaining about the re-re-scheduling. After the shameful display that went on during Tuesday’s monsoon at Yankee Stadium, the Yanks no longer have a leg to stand on.
Once the game began, the Yankees quickly jumped on O’s starter Alfredo Simon. Or maybe “jumped on” isn’t really the right term. The Yankees barely had to swing the bats at all, because a horribly control-challenged Simon walked everyone in the tri-state area. It’s strange, because Simon looked great in the first inning-- throwing nine of his 11 pitches for strikes and retiring the side in order-- but once the second inning rolled around, it’s like he was suddenly possessed by the ghost of Daniel Cabrera. (Yes, I know Daniel Cabrera is still alive, but you get my drift.)
Simon was a complete mess, walking leadoff man Alex Rodriguez on five pitches, then falling behind 2-0 to Robinson Cano, who singled. The plate continued to elude a frantic Alfredo as he walked Nick Swisher on four pitches to load the bases. A mound visit from pitching coach Rick Adair didn’t help much; Simon’s next three pitches were outside of the strike zone, too. At that point, he had thrown 15 pitches in the inning, 13 of them balls. That’s slow torture to sit through.
Finally, he threw a couple of strikes to Eric Chavez, who grounded the second one back up the middle. Shortstop J.J. Hardy made a diving stop behind the bag and tried to flip to second. One problem-- second baseman Robert Andino wasn’t covering the bag. Oh, Robert. That’s disappointing. Everybody moved up a base and Chavez was credited with an RBI single.
With the bases still loaded and none down, Simon got a huge play behind him when Francisco Cervelli lined out to third baseman Chris Davis, who alertly doubled off Swisher at second. Now, with just one more out, Simon could miraculously end the inning with only one run of damage.
No such luck. Simon’s control abandoned him again as he walked Brett Gardner to re-load the bases, and Derek Jeter tapped a slow single up the middle to plate two more runs. Bleh. Well, that’s what happens when you continually put free runners on base, Alfredo. It usually comes back to burn you. For good measure, Simon ran a three-ball count on Curtis Granderson before retiring him on a flyout to finally end a protracted, laborious 36-pitch inning.
Simon clearly wasn’t long for this game, but manager Buck Showalter tried to squeeze a few more innings out of him. It didn’t go very well. Simon allowed three baserunners in the third, capped by another Chavez RBI single to plate the Yankees’ fourth run. Alfredo allowed another three runners in the fourth-- including two more walks!-- but was helped out by catcher Matt Wieters, who threw out Jeter trying to steal second. The Yanks stranded two runners when Rodriguez grounded out on Simon’s 88th and final pitch.
Boy, this was not Alfredo’s finest day. He threw more balls than strikes-- 45 to 43-- and was tagged for four runs on six hits and SIX walks. Ouch. It’s kind of amazing that the Yankees didn’t score more than four runs with those 12 runners. Considering how this game turned out, the Yanks are surely kicking themselves for not better taking advantage of a struggling pitcher.
But as bad as Simon was, the Orioles’ bullpen was absolutely outstanding for the second day in a row, eating up major innings and doing so flawlessly. Jo-Jo Reyes, who was just today moved to the bullpen with Rick VandenHurk taking his spot in the rotation, did an incredible job in long relief. Reyes struck out the first two batters he faced in a perfect fifth inning, then retired the Yankees 1-2-3 again in the sixth. Maybe relief work agrees with Reyes more than starting did.
Reyes plunked Granderson to open the seventh, then retired Mark Teixeira. With the slugging righty-swinger Rodriguez up next, Showalter played the matchups and brought in...Jeremy Accardo? Whoa...I’ll be honest, I’d completely forgotten he was back with the team. The O’s called him up as one of their many September roster expansions. This was Accardo’s first appearance for the Birds since June 17. And he was exactly what the doctor ordered today, inducing an inning-ending double play from Rodriguez. One batter, two outs. Can’t ask for much better. The rarely used Troy Patton came in for the eighth and he, too, worked a perfect frame.
As the O’s bullpen prevented the Yankees from adding to their lead, the Birds’ bats clawed back into the game, though not without a few false starts and missed opportunities. Vladimir Guerrero did early damage to Yankee starter Ivan Nova, beginning with a solo homerun in the second inning, his 12th of the year. The Orioles didn’t get another hit until the next time Vlad batted in the fourth, when he led off with a double. I’d say Guerrero has Nova’s number. The O’s manufactured a run when Vlad moved to third and then home on a pair of grounders (the latter by Mark Reynolds, giving him his 76th RBI of the year). That cut the Yankee lead to 4-2.
For the next couple innings, the O’s couldn’t come up with a timely hit to draw the game closer. They stranded two runners in scoring position in the fourth when Andino struck out. They put runners at second and third with only one out in the fifth, but in a pair of lousy at-bats, Guerrero fouled out to first and Wieters grounded to second.
Even when the O’s did string together some hits, they ran themselves out of big rallies. For three innings in a row, the Orioles had a whopping four runners thrown out on the basepaths in a non-force situation-- two through questionable coaching, two through baserunning blunders.
The first such incident occurred in the sixth. Nolan Reimold doubled with one out, chasing Nova from the game. Yankee manager Joe Girardi’s attempt to play the matchup game didn’t work, as the lefty-swinging Davis smoked an RBI double off southpaw Boone Logan, pulling the O’s within a run at 4-3. But on the next play, Andino hit a comebacker to the mound, and Davis unwisely broke too far from second. Pitcher Luis Ayala threw him out, and the O’s didn’t score again.
In the seventh, Nick Markakis drew a walk, and with one out, Guerrero ripped a double to the gap in right-center field. First of all-- three extra-base hits for Vlad tonight! Good job, old man! But anyway, back to the play. The center fielder Granderson was able to cut off the ball before it rolled to the wall, but third base coach Willie Randolph waved Markakis to the plate. Granderson relayed to the cutoff man, Robinson Cano, who made an outstanding throw home. The throw arrived to Cervelli just moments before Markakis did, and Nick went all-out to try to jar the ball loose, drawing a head of steam and flat-out leveling the catcher. That was a truly impressive knockdown by Markakis. But give credit to Cervelli-- he absorbed the whooping and, despite being toppled over, he never lost control of the ball. Markakis was out.
I don’t blame Randolph for sending Markakis home on that play-- it took a great defensive effort by the Yankees to throw him out. But I do blame Randolph for what happened the very next inning. With Reynolds at second and one out, Davis lined a single to center field. Granderson got to the ball quickly, and Reynolds wasn’t moving very quickly, but Randolph over-aggressively waved him home. Mark was thrown out by the length of a football field. Now that was a poor risk by Randolph. You can’t let the tying run get thrown out with one out by such a large margin.
The good news is that the O’s tied the game on the very next hitter, when Andino stroked an RBI single to plate Davis from second. It’s a brand new ballgame! 4-4! And Andino, who advanced to second on the throw home, was in scoring position representing the go-ahead run. But then, in an absolutely inexplicable play, Andino tried to steal third. With two outs. As the go-ahead run in the bottom of the eighth. And Hardy at the plate. WHAT?? Never, ever make the last out at third base, especially in that situation. Andino was thrown out to end the inning. Total brain cramp.
Don’t worry-- Andino atoned for his baserunning blunder two innings later. But first, let’s give another round of applause to the stellar O’s bullpen, which continued to shut down the Yanks. Patton and Kevin Gregg combined to strike out the side in the ninth (Troy ringing up Cervelli, and Kevin fanning Andruw Jones and Jeter). As the game went to extra innings, Gregg continued to impress, blowing away Granderson and Teixeira on strikeouts to start the 10th. Wow! Four consecutive strikeouts for Kevin Gregg. Who is this guy? Where has he been all season?
Gregg did end up walking Rodriguez with two outs, only the second baserunner allowed by the O’s bullpen in six innings of work. Showalter brought in lefty specialist Clay Rapada, who struck out Cano to strand the runner. All told, the O’s bullpen worked six scoreless, HITLESS innings today, immediately after throwing six shutout frames on Wednesday. Very, very impressive.
Once again, the stage was set for the Orioles to push across the winning run. The Yankees brought in mediocre reliever Scott Proctor, who has already lost once to the O’s this year (when he was pitching for the Braves). The O’s left two runners on base in the ninth, but didn’t waste their opportunity in the 10th. With one out, Reimold singled and Davis walked. That brought up Andino, who was having quite an interesting game-- he’d tied the score earlier with a single, but he also made a defensive misplay in the second and ran himself into an out in the eighth.
Andino’s final moment, happily, was a positive one. He poked a single into left field, allowing Reimold to score from second with the game-winning run. It’s a walkoff win for the Birds! Andino was mobbed by his teammates as the O’s enjoyed their second straight extra-inning victory over the Yankees, finishing the season series at 5-13.
Rapada picked up the victory in relief, his first as an Oriole...which ties him for 248th place on the all-time O’s win list with such luminaries as Steve Reed, Aaron Rakers, and Richie Lewis! Proctor fell to 2-4 on the season and 0-1 as a Yankee. Orioles win, 5-4, in 10 innings.
MLB.com Box Score
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