For most of the last six weeks, the Orioles have hounded the Yankees. First they pestered them for AL East supremacy and then for the right to advance to the ALCS.
Now the teams will have one more game to determine who advances and who starts planning for next season.
The Yankees failed to close out the division series due to their inability to get a big hit and the Orioles evened the series with a 2-1 win that was decided on J.J. Hardy’s one-out double in the top of the 13th inning off David Phelps.
The winning rally began when rookie Manny Machado lined a double to right field. He took third on a groundout by Nate McLouth and scored when Hardy lined a 2-2 slider in front of the warning track in left field.
That sent the series to a deciding Game 5, which seems appropriate since the teams split the 18 games in the regular season. CC Sabathia is expected to start for the Yankees while Baltimore counters with Jason Hammel for the right to face Detroit in the ALCS on Saturday.
“It’s kind of what we’ve been used to the whole year,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “It’s been a grind the whole year. You know it’s been a fight to stay ahead of this club the whole year and it’s pretty fitting.”
“It’s an honor to be in Game 5 with them,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “You knew all along that the road to where we want to try to get is going to have to pass through there and here.”
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Of the 22 games played between the teams, nine have been decided by one run and four in extra innings. The Yankees have outscored the Orioles by a slim, 102-101 margin.
“They have a good team,” Derek Jeter said. “You don’t play 162 games and have that kind of success they have and not have a good team.”
“This is going to be awesome,” Nick Swisher said. “Obviously this wasn’t the way we would have liked it. Just the battles we’ve been having all season, it’s almost inevitable there would be a Game 5.”
The Yankees could have avoided using Sabathia for the second time in the series had they been able to get a big hit. They were 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position, stranded 10 and scored their only run in the sixth on Robinson Cano’s RBI groundout off Baltimore starter Joe Saunders.
Several Yankees had rough times getting the big hit, including Alex Rodriguez. A night after Raul Ibanez pinch hit for him in the ninth, Rodriguez walked and singled in his first two plate appearances.
Those productive appearances were negated by his next three at-bats. Those featured two feeble strikeouts against Tommy Hunter and Darren O’Day in the sixth and eighth, preceding a groundout in the 11th against Pedro Strop.
“It’s frustrating,” Rodriguez said. “I had a situation there to do some damage and I didn’t get it done.”
Rodriguez’s last two at-bats were so discouraging that Eric Chavez batted for him with two outs in the 13th against Jim Johnson. Unlike the night before when he gave up a home run to pinch hitter Raul Ibanez, Johnson closed it out by retiring Chavez on a lineout to third.
Though Rodriguez said he felt good in his at-bats, he also took the same team-first stance as yesterday in his postgame comments about being replaced.
“Chavez had a good at-bat,” Rodriguez said. “We were just trying to string good at-bats together to win the game.”
Also failing was Curtis Granderson, who went 0-for-5 with three strikeouts. His biggest opportunity to start a winning rally was leading off the 12th, but he struck out swinging on a full count against Strop.
That put the team that scored 804 runs, led the league with 245 home runs and in on-base percentage on the brink of seeing their season ended at home in a fifth game for the same reason as last season against Detroit.
“Sometimes in the playoffs you just pitch well,” Phil Hughes said. “You got guys constantly coming out of the bullpen. You got sidearm guys, guy throwing 90 miles an hour. It’s not that easy. Obviously you’re scratching and clawing trying to get a run, but we still have a lot of confidence in our offense.”
“We always have confidence in our guys,” Jeter said. “I’m sure they have confidence in their guys. We just have to execute.”
The lack of hitting overshadowed an otherwise spectacular night by the Yankee pitching staff.
Phil Hughes allowed just a solo home run to Nate McLouth in the fifth among four hits in 6 2/3 innings. Boone Logan got the final out of the seventh by getting McLouth on a lineout before David Robertson worked a perfect eighth.
But the biggest out recorded by the Yankee bullpen was achieved by Rafael Soriano. After allowing Jim Thome to reach on an infield hit that took a tough bounce on shortstop Jayson Nix, he made a nice snap throw to first base and picked off pinch runner Lew Ford before ending the ninth with a strikeout against Mark Reynolds.
Soriano also pitched a perfect 10th before Joba Chamberlain did the same in the 11th. Chamberlain gave up a leadoff single to Matt Wieters in the 12th and was removed after pieces of the broken bat deflected off his back and elbow, briefly knocking him to the ground. He walked off the field and was replaced by Phelps.
Follow Yankees beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.