A close game and the Orioles going to the bullpen? That was money in the bank all season long. But now it’s the playoffs and nothing that came before mattered. And tonight the Orioles faithful saw something unusual: their All-Star closer get beat around and turn a 2-2 tie game in the ninth into a 7-2 loss in a New York minute.
The O’s and Yanks played it tight for eight innings, with runs scoring for New York on an Ichiro double and a Mark Teixeira single. Those hits surrounded a Nate McLouth two-run single. Baltimore and New York remained tied at two from the fourth through ninth inning.
The turning point came in the bottom of the eighth when J.J. Hardy reached on a leadoff double. CC Sabathia, hovering around a hundred pitches, may have been yanked in other circumstances, but Joe Girardi kept him in and was rewarded for it: the big guy struck out Adam Jones, induced a foul out by Matt Wieters and then got Mark Reynolds to ground out to short.
Buck Showalter called on Jim Johnson to handle the ninth. Not a bad call, actually. The bullpen has been the O’s meal ticket all year and Johnson hadn’t given up a run since September 8 en route to a 51 save season. He immediately gave up a run, however, in the form of a dinger to Russell Martin. After that the wheels fell off, with Johnson surrendering five runs total on an assortment of hits and a sacrifice fly.
Hard to criticize Buck Showalter for going with his closer in a tie game at home. Sometimes, though, things just don’t work out the way they had been working out before.