October 12, 2012
Just maybe the Baltimore Orioles' remarkable run into October is not so improbable after all.
Seventeen wins in extra innings, 31 victories in one-run games. Staving off elimination from the postseason twice already.
They've done all that, and might not be done yet.
Bouncing back from a demoralizing defeat, the Orioles beat the New York Yankees 2-1 in, yep, 13 innings on J.J. Hardy's double in Game 4 of the division series Thursday night.
Now they get a chance to prove one more time that they're unflappable, in a winner-take-all Game 5 Friday.
"All these extra-inning games, all these close games. Obviously, it's fitting with the types of games we played all year," closer Jim Johnson said.
On Thursday they played past midnight, winning a test of wills with the high-priced Yankees for a chance at a spot in the AL championship series against Detroit.
Game 1 winner CC Sabathia was set to pitch the deciding game for the Yankees against Jason Hammel.
"It's time to go," Sabathia said. "This is a one-game playoff, and this is what we play for. We're here in the Bronx at home, and like I said, I'll be excited and ready to go."
The teams have already split 22 games this year, with New York outscoring Baltimore 103-101. And they have been tied or separated by one run going into the ninth inning of each of this series' four games.
With the innings and hours piling up, the Orioles were 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position until Hardy doubled off David Phelps with one out to score Manny Machado, who had doubled.
"There hasn't been a whole lot of opportunities to score runs," Hardy said, "so when there are those opportunities, I think we're trying a little bit too hard."
Phelps had relieved in the 12th after Joba Chamberlain was hit by a flying broken bat, forcing him to leave with a bruised right elbow.
Johnson returned from allowing Raul Ibanez's pinch-hit homer in the ninth inning Wednesday to earn his second save in the series with a perfect 13th.
"I don't take for granted at any time what these guys are accomplishing so far," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "They know that. I have so much respect for our guys."
Hours after learning Joe Girardi had kept quiet that his father died last Saturday, the Yankees couldn't rally late. This time, Girardi called upon Eric Chavez to pinch hit for slumping Alex Rodriguez. He lined out to third base to end it.
Baltimore's win pushed all four division series to five games for the first time since the round began in 1995.
The Orioles have been pursuing the Yankees all season, cutting a 10-game deficit in July to zero in early September. Baltimore and New York were tied 10 times atop the East in the final month but the Yankees never completely relinquished the lead and wrapped up the division on the final night of the regular season.
Baltimore advanced to the division series with a win over the Texas Rangers in the wild-card playoff.
"You know, we played an elimination game last week to start our postseason. It's like a Game 7," reliever Darren O'Day said. "I think we all got as much playoff experience as we need, especially considering how many times we've played them this year. And tonight was an elimination game and tomorrow will be another one."