Extra innings again! And yet, somehow, in spite of the Yankees being involved, the game only barely made it past the four-and-a-half hour mark. I’d suggest that perhaps they only played seven– don’t the Yanks average about two innings per hour?– but then I harken back to a long ago era when this game was somehow about Nate McLouth, which I suppose means this damn thing has gone on long enough.
But we can’t say that of those insufferably magical Baltimore Orioles, who stave off elimination to force a Game Five tomorrow at 5:00 PM ET!
A-Rod’s career as a mid-order threat, on the other hand? I’m not so sure of that, as he was pinch hit for once again in extra innings, as Jim Johnson retired Eric Chavez– who hit a rocket to Manny Machado at third– to end the game, preserving the lead Baltimore finally clawed out to after JJ Hardy doubled in Machado, who himself had launched a double to right field to lead-off the thirteen.
The win probability graph below kinda says it all…
As for the match itself, yes, as I said above, for a long time, this was Nate McLouth’s game. Almost as though they knew they were in for another taut affair, in the top the first the Orioles threatened, with a lead-off walk from McLouth, followed by a bunt from JJ Hardy in which both runners were safe. Three fly-outs later and Phil Hughes had escaped, but he’d run into trouble again in the third, being saved only by a rookie mistake from Manny Machado. The 20-year-old uber-prospect ran himself into an out at the plate after finding himself on third base with none out. He’d walked and was doubled over by– yes– McLouth. But when Hardy tapped one back to the mound, Machado ran on contact, easily being thrown out by Hughes, who quickly got himself out of the inning with a strikeout of Chris Davis, followed by a weak chopper to second from Adam Jones.
Off the hook, the Yankees came to the plate and Lance Nix opened the bottom of the frame with a double, and the members of the Flat Earth Momentum Society suddenly took notice. But though one of them was a 13 pitch battle with Derek Jeter, Saunders managed to strike out the side (no, really), leaving Nix on base, as the game ambled on as though nothing extraordinary had happened.
The dealock was broken by the lead-off batter in the top of the fifth, when– yes, seriously– Nate McLouth took Hughes deep off a tough 1-2 fastball. Sticking with the pattern of the previous games in the series, though, three straight strikeouts followed, and the margin for error for both sides remained razor thin.
Stunningly, in the bottom half of the frame, McLouth wasn’t willing to let the hard-earned run he put up be erased, ranging deep on a Swisher drive to make a fantastic catch (so he Sharifed it, so what?), then having the presence of mind to get the ball back in quickly enough to double off Jussell Martin, who was in full-on retreat after thinking it was a sure hit.
I hate you, Nate McLouth. You are awesome.
— Jake Goldsbie (@JGoldsbie) October 12, 2012
Jeter doubles to start the sixth, eventually scoring to even the game, chasing Saunders in the process, after a sac bunt from Ichiro, and a Cano ground out brought him home. Oh Captain, my Captain.
The score would hold at 1-1 well beyond the end of the ninth, and while much of the pitching was superb, the hitters certainly got involved along the way:
- Jeter was called out on strikes– in the playoffs! in the Bronx!– with two runners on to end a threat in the seventh. No gift basket for home plate umpire Fieldin Culbreth, I suspect.
- Darren O’Day comes on to face A-Rod– who has had the support of the crowd for most of the night, but not for long– striking him out on four pitches, including two 85 mph fastballs in the first two pitches of the at-bat. He induces a Nick Swisher flyout, then more or less cruises through the ninth and tenth inning before giving way to Pedro Strop.
- For the Yankees, David Robertson handles the ninth, then Rafael Soriano comes in for the ninth, giving up a single to Jim Thome, but redeeming himself by picking off Lew Ford for the second out of the inning, before– quelle surprise!– striking out Mark Reynolds.
- Soriano pitched the tenth as well, giving way to Joba Chamberlain in the eleventh. Coming back out for the twelfth, Chamberlain gives up a single to Matt Wieters, the first batter he faces, and ultimately the last. Wieters’ bat shatters on contact with the pitch, leaving the O’s catcher holding just a toothpick, and the barrel hurtling full force towards the mound, where it hits Joba– who had turned around to watch the hit– square on the right elbow, forcing him to leave the game. David Phelps comes in cold– well, after a long injury delay–
- Every time the Yankees strike an Orioles hitter out they play some weird damn whistle that, I’m told, has something to do with appliance store PR Richard & Son, but that totally, vaguely– vaguely– reminds me of the Specials.
- That digression brought to you by the fact that, well… this:
This game won’t end until A-Rod homers in the 34th inning off Jim Palmer
— Jay Jaffe (@jay_jaffe) October 12, 2012
Or, you know, JJ Hardy and Manny Machado’s heroics in the top of the 13th– and Jim Johnson’s impressive bounce back after last night’s Ibanez-a-palooza! Yes, not moments after I pasted Jaffe’s tweet into this post, the Baseball Gods flipped back over from MSNBC’s (OK, let’s be serious, FOX News’s) post-Vice Presidential debate coverage for long enough to stop dicking us around and force a fifth and deciding game in what has so far been a tremendous, tense series that could have, at several moments, gone entirely the other way, or back again.
Put more succinctly…
— Stephanie (@marylandgirlie) October 12, 2012