Place: Yankee Stadium, Bronx, New York
The Baltimore Orioles were two outs away from taking a 2-1 lead in the American League Division Series. Now they’re one loss away from having their magical season come to an end as they attempt to stave off elimination Thursday against the Yankees in New York.
Behind a brilliant pitching performance by Miguel Gonzalez and solo home runs from fellow rookies Ryan Flaherty and Manny Machado, Baltimore held a 2-1 advantage Wednesday until Raul Ibanez hit a one-out homer in the ninth inning while pinch-hitting for the struggling Alex Rodriguez.
The game-tying blast came off Orioles closer Jim Johnson, who entered the series opener with the score tied and proceeded to yield five runs while recording just one out. Ibanez provided more heroics in the 12th inning on Wednesday, crushing Brian Matusz’s first pitch of the frame for his second blast of the night and a 2-1 series lead.
The Orioles fell to 16-3 in extra-inning games this year, with all three losses coming against the Yankees. The first two setbacks occurred on April 10-11. Baltimore also dropped to 76-1 when leading after seven innings.
New York has won two of the last three games in which it has trailed after eight innings. Prior to Oct. 2 against Boston, it was 0-58 in such contests this year. Rodriguez is 1-for-12 with seven strikeouts thus far in the series.
Derek Jeter, who left Wednesday’s game after eight innings with a foot injury, hit his fifth career playoff triple in the third frame to tie George Brett and Rafael Furcal for the most all time.
PITCHING MATCHUP: Orioles LH Joe Saunders (1-0, 1.59 ERA) vs. Yankees RH Phil Hughes (2012: 16-13, 4.23 ERA)
Saunders is coming off a solid effort in the wild-card game against Texas on Friday, when he allowed one run and six hits over 5 2/3 innings. The 31-year-old improved to 3-1 lifetime versus the Yankees on Sept. 8 as he yielded two runs and five hits in 5 1/3 frames.
Saunders faced New York twice in the 2009 AL Championship Series while with the Los Angeles Angels, coming away with a no-decision in Game 2 despite allowing two runs in seven innings before surrendering three runs in only 3 1/3 frames and suffering the loss in the series-ending Game 6.
Hughes has struggled over his last three starts, allowing a total of 13 runs in 16 1/3 innings while going 1-1. The 26-year-old lasted only 4 2/3 frames at Toronto on Sept. 30, escaping with a no-decision despite surrendering five runs and eight hits.
Hughes went 2-2 with a 4.76 ERA in four starts against the Orioles this season and is 6-4 with a 5.10 ERA in 17 career meetings, including three relief appearances.
1. Hughes had most of his success during the regular season at home, where he went 11-4 with a 3.74 ERA in 16 starts.
2. Ibanez is the first player to hit two home runs in a postseason game in which he did not start.
3. The Orioles have allowed 12 runs so far in the series. Johnson has surrendered six of them.