Flaherty ends Orioles’ postseason home run drought (we’re tied)

NEW YORK - I’ve had numerous people ask me via Twitter and the blog why Robert Andino isn’t starting tonight. Manager Buck Showalter has been platooning him at second base, using him only against left-handed starters. And Showalter must have known that Ryan Flaherty was going to hit a home run.

The guy’s always one step ahead of everyone else.

Flaherty broke a scoreless tie in the third inning tonight with a solo shot off Yankees right-hander Hiroki Kuroda, the ball clearing the short fence in right field. Nick Swisher did a Lambeau Leap in an attempt to make the catch - and to get noticed, which is common with him.

Flaherty produced the first Orioles home run in the playoffs since Eric Davis connected off Cleveland Indians reliever Paul Assenmacher on Oct. 13 in Game 5 of the 1997 American League Championship Series.

Then there’s this gem from @ESPNStatsInfo: Flaherty is the first player born in Maine with a postseason home run.

I passed along this fun fact to Maine native and former Orioles shortstop Mike Bordick, who’s sitting next to me in the press box. I chided Bordick for not being the first. He smiled, nodded his head and pointed out that Maine hasn’t produced many position players.

OK, fair enough.

So, who’s the last Rule 5 pick to homer in the playoffs in his rookie season?

Miguel Gonzalez retired six of the first seven batters tonight until Russell Martin doubled to left. Mark Reynolds saved a run with another impressive play at first, robbing Eric Chavez and flipping to Gonzalez for the out, but Derek Jeter tripled with two outs to tie the score.

Adam Jones got a bad jump on the ball and couldn’t catch up to it. He appeared to take a step in before drifting back and then racing into right-center.

Yes, he blew a bubble. He does that all the time. It didn’t prevent him from making the catch. He just didn’t make the proper read and couldn’t outrun his mistake.

Update: Flaherty left the bases loaded in the fourth by bouncing to the mound after Chris Davis walked, Jones singled and Reynolds was hit by another pitch.

The ball appeared to hit Reynolds near the right elbow. Then it glanced off his rib cage, like a magic loogy #seinfeld

The Orioles are 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position and have stranded four.

Update II: Manny Machado became the second rookie to homer tonight for the Orioles, giving them a 2-1 lead in the fifth.

According to @ESPNStatsInfo, the Orioles never had rookie hit a postseason homer until tonight. Hard to believe.

CBSSports.com’s Danny Knobler points out that Machado joins Mickey Mantle and Miguel Cabrera as the only 20-year-olds to homer in the playoffs. Andruw Jones was 19.

According to STATS LLC, this is the first time rookie teammates have ever hit home runs in the same postseason game.

Update III: The Orioles don’t have an ace, but Miguel Gonzalez plays one on TV.

What an outstanding performance by Gonzalez, who allowed one run and five hits, walked none and struck out eight over seven innings. He threw 99 pitches, 69 for strikes.

Darren O’Every Day has replaced Gonzalez, who has walked one and struck out 25 in three starts at Yankee Stadium.

Update IV: Raul Ibanez, pinch-hitting for Alex Rodriguez, homered off Jim Johnson with one out in the bottom of the ninth to tie the game and deprive Gonzalez of the win.

Ibanez crushed a 94 mph fastball, and we’re starting over here.

Johnson has struggled in three of his last four outings. He loaded the bases Friday night in Texas before getting the final out in the wild card game, and he surrendered five runs (four earned) in Game 1 of the Division Series. He retired the Yankees in order to record the save in Game 2.

Jayson Nix replaced Derek Jeter at shortstop in the top of the ninth. Jeter fouled a ball off his foot earlier and was hobbling. His status for Game 4 will be a hot topic.

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