Buck ball was back in Baltimore on Monday night. After a devastating loss in what had been a tie contest entering the ninth inning on Sunday, the Orioles reclaimed their tight-game magic with a 3-2 win over the Yankees in game two of the teams’ best-of-five ALDS.
The Orioles were in a must-win situation and made matters even more difficult by digging themselves an immediate 1-0 deficit on Ichiro Suzuki's miracle slide into home in the top of the first.
Most young teams would have melted under the pressure of the national spotlight and oober-talented Yankees, but this isn’t most teams.
This is Buck Showalter’s team. The Baltimore manager has his 25 players believing they are impervious to pressure.
The O’s kicked up a rally against veteran Yankee left-hander Andy Pettite in the third, going ahead to stay on Chris Davis’ two-run single. Mark Reynolds added an RBI knock in the sixth for insurance and then the Orioles let their pitching do the rest.
Wei-Yin Chen, the 27-year-old Taiwanese rookie, pitched surprisingly well. Chen had been roughed up by the Yankees the last time he faced New York during the regular season, allowing seven runs while lasting less than five frames. When he dug himself an early hole on Monday, it looked like history was repeating itself.
But Chen stranded a runner in scoring position in the first and then wiggled his way out of a bases-loaded jam in the fourth. He lasted into the seventh, holding the Yankees to just two runs (one earned) on eight hits. In the most pressure-packed start of his career, Chen walked only one batter and left in line for the victory.
Still, the Orioles needed a little assistance from their magic-wand wielding manager to get home. Showalter used three pitchers in the seventh, but Baltimore was able to work its way out of a second-and-third squeeze. In the ninth, Showalter let closer Jim Johnson redeem himself for Sunday’s struggles. The closer came on and sat New York down in order to even the series at a game apiece.
Baltimore’s magic carpet ride of a season now comes down to a three-game series in New York, which the O’s need to win two-out-of-three in to advance.
It may sound like a daunting task, but considering the Orioles accomplished that exact feat all three times the teams faced off in the Bronx during the regular season, it is more than possible.
The Orioles are mentally tough, fundamentally sound, and baseball wise. In other words they are the epitome of their manager. Now this gritty group needs two more wins to deliver its manager the sweetest success imaginable; Revenge over a team that famously fired him 17 years ago.
It would be a fitting next chapter in the Orioles fairy tale run of 2012.