McLouth and his missus might consider changing their viewing habits Thursday night after Game 4 of the American League Division Series, all the better to savor a 2-1 victory over the Yankees in 13 innings that forces a decisive Game 5 on Friday between teams that have evenly split their 22 encounters this season.
In fact, all the Orioles should gather around the flat screen. McLouth hit a homer for the Orioles’ only run during regulation and also made a run-saving catch in left. In the 13th inning, Manny Machado and J.J. Hardy (after falling behind 0-2 in the count) drilled doubles to push across the winning run in front of a sellout crowd of 49,307.
The Orioles received another gutty outing from left-hander Joe Saunders (West Springfield) in an elimination game — he had thrown the wild card victory in Texas that enabled Baltimore to advance to the divisional series — and then seven relievers shut out the Yankees over 7 1
Pedro Strop, who threw two innings, picked up the win and closer Jim Johnson, who gave up runs in two relief appearances in the series, earned the save. Baltimore has won 17 of 20 extra-inning games this season, crucial to reaching the playoffs for the first time in 15 years. The team is 8-0 in games of 13 or more innings.
“If you go back through tonight’s game, we needed every bullet to get an out in a key spot and pass the baton,” Orioles Manager Buck Showalter said. “I think it’s unusual to have that many passes of the baton as we’ve had this year in these type of games without somebody dropping it.”
Baltimore left six runners on base in the first four innings but got the two extra-base hits in the 13th. Machado was 1 for 13 in the series before his double, and Hardy was 2 for 17 before his game-winner.
“I think we had chances all night and we weren’t coming through,” Hardy said. “I don’t know if we’re putting too much pressure on ourselves or what, but it was nice to come through there. I hadn’t hit a ball hard all game. It felt good to get the ball up in the air.”
In the bottom of the inning, Johnson struck out Mark Teixeira looking, and then Robinson Cano and pinch hitter Eric Chavez each lined out.
Saunders threw a strong 5 2
3 innings, allowing one run on three hits, with five strikeouts and four walks, although the Yankees put at least one runner on base in each inning he worked. In the Orioles’ five postseason games, their starting pitchers have allowed six earned runs in 30 1
3 innings for a 1.78 ERA. They have struck out 25 and walked 10, one intentionally.
“I came back out [of the clubhouse] in the 10th or 11th ,and it felt like I’d pitched yesterday,” Saunders said of a game that lasted 4 hours and 31 minutes. “I didn’t want to go home on my watch, and I know these guys didn’t want to go home. I didn’t want to have that on my shoulders and on my conscience.”
Machado, 20, had become the second-youngest player in major league history to hit a postseason home run the previous night, and then he delivered the clutch leadoff double to start the 13th, a hit over the glove of leaping second baseman Cano to set up Hardy. Both hits came off David Phelps, the sixth of eight New York pitchers.
“I’m not sure he’s 20,” Hardy joked of the precocious third baseman, called up from Class AA Bowie in August. “He’s really aware of everything that’s going on out there and he seems really calm.”
“I kind of try to put myself in that position as a 20-year-old,” said McLouth, 30. “I’d have to wear a diaper. I mean, he’s 20 and doing this in Yankee Stadium in the playoffs and playing great defense, too.”
McLouth, a .140 hitter with the Pittsburgh Pirates the first half of the season before latching on with the Orioles, might have made the defensive play of the game when he made a leaping catch near the wall in left field — he said after the game that he took his eye off the ball momentarily and was blinded by a red State Farm sign — to start an inning-ending double play in the bottom of the fifth.
“It almost blinded me,” McLouth said. “I wanted to check where the wall was, but I just happened to look right at that sign.”
The Yankees, who stranded 10 baserunners and were 0 for 9 with runners in scoring position, tied the game in the sixth when Derek Jeter led off with a double to right, moved to third on an Ichiro Suzuki sacrifice and after Teixeira walked, scored on a Cano groundout to second.
New York starter Phil Hughes threw 6 2
3 innings, allowing four hits, one run. He struck out eight and walked three. After that, the Yankees used every one of their relievers. They were almost, but not quite, as impressive as the Orioles’ bullpen, who locked down the win in the longest postseason game in franchise history.
“For our pitchers to keep throwing up zeroes, I don’t even know what to say about it,” McLouth said. “It was impressive.”
Okay, but will your wife let you watch the highlights tonight?
“I’m going to make her,” he said with a laugh.