For the second time in seven days, the Orioles will play a postseason game where their season will end with a loss. They won the first time Friday in Texas and must win tonight in Game 4 of the best-of-five American League Division Series.
The team has been resilient and showed an amazing ability to bounce back all year and tonight is likely the toughest test of all. They have to beat the Yankees in Yankee Stadium to force a Game 5. The Yankees are not eliminated with a loss.
Joe Saunders was on the mound Friday and outdueled Yu Darvish, then giving up one run over 5 2/3 innings. He’ll need his off-speed assortment to be sharp again and save the O’s season.
The team must be reeling somewhat after seeing their closer give it up in the ninth for the second time in three games. Jim Johnson gave up just three regular season homers in 68 2/3 innings. He didn’t give up any in 33 innings from July to the end of the regular season. He has now given up two in three games.
Brian Matusz hadn’t given up a homer in 16 innings as reliever until Raul Ibanez hit the walk-off in the 12th. Two big swings against two of the O’s best.
The Orioles have lost just 10 games by one run this year and four have come against New York. Their three extra innings losses have all come against the Yankees.
One reader commented after the game last night that maybe the stage was too big for the Orioles. Crazy comment. The stage was just fine for 8 1/3 innigns in a ballpark where they had been 6-3 this year. It was a bad time for two poorly located pitches and a hot hitter didn’t miss them. It had nothing to do with the team not playing up to the moment.
It is absolutely go time for the O’s offense. It not tonight, they may not have another chance. In this series, the Orioles have scored just seven runs on a team average of .208. They hadn’t hit a homer until getting one each from Ryan Flaherty and Manny Machado. They have scored two, three and two runs in the games. Thanks to the pitchers, it was almost enough to have the O’s on the brink of a series win. Almost.
In this series, J.J. Hardy is 1-for-12, Adam Jones 2-for-13, Matt Wieters 1-for-13 and Jim Thome 0-for-8.
By the way, did a reporter really begin the press conference with Buck Showalter after last night’s loss by saying, “How big is the knot in your stomach?” Maybe it was the same guy that said to Joe Girardi, “Do you feel like the smartest manager who ever managed a game?”
“No,” Girardi said. “Why not?” said the reporter. Wow. Guess you don’t need to show your resume or have any experience to gain a credential these days.
But I digress.
These teams have played 30 innings over three games and been separated by more than one run in just two of them. The Yankees have won 11 games and the Orioles 10 in the 21 they have played. If the Orioles can make it 11-11, the season will live on for at least one more day.