Yankee fans were hoping Jim Johnson would become the 2012 version of Byung-Hyun Kim by allowing ninth-inning home runs on consecutive nights.
It did not happen as Johnson retired the side in the ninth for the save as the Orioles evened the ALDS with a 3-2 victory.
Game 3 is Wednesday night at Yankee Stadium. Hiroki Kuroda will make his postseason debut in pinstripes and will be opposed by Miguel Gonzalez, who pitched seven scoreless innings in New York on Aug. 31.
Johnson rebounded from allowing five hits, including Russell Martin’s go-ahead home run, a night earlier by retiring the side on 12 pitches. He retired Derek Jeter and Ichiro Suzuki on groundouts before getting Alex Rodriguez to swing and miss on a 96-mph fastball.
The Yankees had opportunities most of the night but rarely came through, going 2-for-8 with runners in scoring position and 4-for-17 with men on base.
The Yankees got their second clutch hit in the seventh after Eduardo Nunez hustled for a double and scored on Derek Jeter’s base hit. The rally seemed to have momentum as Ichiro beat out a double play, but despite decent at-bats by Rodriguez and Nick Swisher, it stalled.
Rodriguez struck out swinging on a full-count slider from Darren O’Day as Ichiro stole second. After Brian Matusz intentionally walked Robinson Cano, Swisher flied out to left field on a full-count fastball, giving the Yankee right fielder one hit in his last 33 playoff at-bats with runners in scoring position.
Andy Pettitte pitched decently in his 43rd career postseason start, allowing three runs and six hits in seven-plus innings. He gave up a two-out, two-run single to Chris Davis in the third and a run-scoring single to Mark Reynolds with none out in the sixth.
Along the way, Pettitte prevented further damage by escaping a bases-loaded jam in the third and a huge strikeout of Jim Thome and double play from rookie Manny Machado in the sixth. Pettitte’s night ended after allowing a leadoff single to Davis in the eighth.
Orioles starter Wei-Yin Chin pitched well in his postseason debut, allowing two runs and eight hits in 6 1/3 innings. He threw 77 of 112 pitches for strike.
What we learned ...
1. It always comes down to A-Rod
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While that might not be entirely true, more often than not it seems to be the case. After striking out three times in the series opener, Rodriguez went 1-for-5 with two strikeouts coming in the late innings, including the final out of the game against Jim Johnson
2. Andy Pettitte can still pitch
It was natural to wonder how a 40-year-old with just three starts under his belt following a broken ankle would do. The answer was pretty well. Pettitte allowed three runs and seven hits in seven-plus innings. He loaded the bases in the third inning and gave up a two-run single to Chris Davis but got out of it by getting Matt Wieters out on the first pitch. Pettitte allowed an RBI single to Wieters in the sixth, but like he has done throughout his career, he got the big double play against rookie Manny Machado.
3. Interesting baserunning
Game 1 saw the Yankees make two poor decisions on the bases that ultimately did not cost them. In Game 2, both teams made decisions that had mixed results. The Yankees scored their first run when Ichiro eluded Wieters’s tag by swinging his body wide. Then he leaped over the diving attempt to make the tag. In the third, Hardy was frantically being waved home by third base coach DeMarco Hale but somehow did not score, perhaps being deked by Alex Rodriguez. The play was so perplexing that Buck Showalter could not quite answer it in his in-game interview with the TBS broadcast team.
Follow Yankees beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher for updates throughout the postseason.