James Baker: In the cold air of the morning

Last night was a bitter pill to swallow. It was a hard, swift kick to the collective bellend of the greater Baltimore area. For at least the next 10 hours, we will hear about the Yankee mystique and the majesty of the greatest franchise in baseball's history. The New York Yankees have had so many moments like last night's in their history that they could fill a library with the written accounts.

I believe the New York Public Library, one of the most beautiful buildings in the world, does in fact have a section devoted completely to said written accounts. They are kept neatly compiled next to a TV monitor playing the scene of Joe Namath running off the field, index finger erect and pointing to the heavens, on a continuous loop.

Last night, in the ninth inning, 36-year-old Alex Rodriguez was pinch for 40-year-old Raul Ibanez. What seemed at first like an almost laughable move quickly became the thing of bourbon-soaked nightmares, with a home run to tie the game. Again in the 12th inning, Ibanez forever cemented himself in that Yankee lore we will hear so much about today by homering again.

Ibanez had quietly been the Yankees' late-inning trump card all year. So far, as a pinch-hitter, Ibanez has an OPS of 1.019 in 29 at-bats. Ibanez did it last year, too, with the Phillies, OPSing at a .919 clip in 11 at-bats. He has also been remarkably clutch this year. In late and close situations, he has a .939 OPS with five homers in 70 at-bats. The fact that Ibanez has done this all year is of little comfort today to Orioles fans, who must now realize that, once again, the Yankees stand in the way of true baseball glory.

The Orioles' bats have gone as silent as the seething rage many still feel this morning. Adam Jones, Matt Wieters, J.J. Hardy, Mark Reynolds - they are all the reasons why the Orioles are here and so far they have been non-factors at the plate. The Orioles have only been able to scratch out seven runs in the last three games against the Yankees rotation. Now, our pitchers have matched them pitch for pitch for the most part, which is equal parts wonderful and amazing; however, they can only do so much and the lack of offensive production has certainly hurt the Orioles.

When you play any team on the road, let alone the Yankees in New York, and you are only hanging on to a one-run lead, anything can happen. Ibanez's line drive homer in the ninth could be a home run that would only have gone out in Yankee Stadium (though his 12th inning homer was certainly a bomb), but it doesn't matter. The Orioles were in Yankee Stadium and it is a stadium that is perfectly suited for Ibanez's type of temperamental power, and it worked last night.

This isn't a post that will wallow in self-pity, nor will it be a cheerleader's cry for clapping hands and steely resolve. This post is what it is; a slightly solemn yet realistic reflection on last night's events in the cold air the morning after.

The Orioles' season hangs in the balance tonight against the Yankees and all their history and majesty. Over at Grantland, Shane Ryan wrote a piece that I took as a bit of tongue-in-cheek gamesmanship where he likened the Yankees-Orioles matchup to the "little brother syndrome." It is hard not see it that way right now, the Yankees seem to be that one last mountain the Orioles have trouble climbing.

However, this season has been full of surprises, impossible events and outright magic and with their backs to the wall, this team has always responded. They face elimination tonight and there is just as much reason for hope as there is for doubt, even in the cold air of the morning after.

James Baker blogs about the Orioles at Oriole Post. His observations about the O's appear as part of MASNsports.com's season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our site. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.

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