Tommy Hunter came back out to the mound to start the ninth inning after getting the final out of the eighth in a tie ball game, but Robinson Cano led off with a solo homer to give the New York Yankees the lead and later added another run in the inning that was enough to secure a 5-4 victory and jump over the Baltimore Orioles in the AL Wildcard standings.
Baltimore managed to score one run in the bottom of the ninth to pull within one when Brian Roberts delivered a RBI single to score Nate McLouth, who doubled with two out, but could not tie the game as Manny Machado struck out to end it.
The real question of the night was why Manager Buck Showalter would leave the right handed Tommy Hunter, who had allowed all nine (now ten) of the home runs he had allowed this season to left handed hitters, in the game to face Cano when both Brian Matusz and Troy Patton were in the bullpen.
"Tommy's been throwing the ball well for us," Showalter said following a 5-4 loss. "Tommy's a good option for us regardless of who's hitting. I think Cano's a threat regardless of who's pitching. I think it was a change-up, I'm not sure, something that got up out over the plate. Good selection, just bad location."
Regardless of how well Hunter has been throwing the ball, this is a situation where there is no excuse, as Curtis Granderson, another left handed hitter, tripled off of Hunter with one out in the ninth to set up the second run of the inning that ultimately became the difference in the game. Tommy has pitched well this season, but not to left handers. As we mentioned before, now all ten home runs that Hunter has allowed this season have come against left handers and lefties are hitting .318 off Hunter this season as opposed to right handers hitting just .119.
The need for a left hander to be ready was obvious and we here at Orioles101 (@Orioles_101) even sent out a Tweet in the eighth inning mentioning how surprised we were that there was not a left hander warming in the bullpen for Cano, who was going to be leading off the top of the ninth in a tie ball game.
Unfortunately the ninth inning debacle wasted a pretty darn good start by Scott Feldman who tossed 7 2/3 innings while allowing three runs on three hits, two walks and six strikeouts on 112 pitches, 69 of which were for strikes. The one downside of Feldman's night was that two of the three hits he allowed were solo home runs while the Orioles had a 3-1 lead, thus saw that lead disappear.
Chris Davis hit a clutch two out, two run double in the bottom of the third to give Baltimore a 2-1 lead and it was also the 40th double of the season for Crush. With those 40 doubles, Davis became the first player in Orioles franchise history to have a season with 40 or more doubles and 40 or more home runs, and just the 12th in the history of MLB.
Danny Valencia led the way offensively going 4-4 with a double and run scored, while Roberts went 3-5 with a RBI and run scored and Machado and McLouth each had two hits apiece. Valencia has been a man on fire as of late as he is hitting .564 (22-39) since August 4th, which is good for the best average in all of baseball over that time span among hitters with at least 35 at bats.
Tampa Bay and Texas each lost again yesterday and the AL Wildcard race is becoming an absolute barn burner with six teams battling for two playoff spots, and five are within two games of the second wildcard spot and all are within 4 1/2 of the top spot.
Baltimore will look for a series split with the Yankees tonight as they send Wei-Yin Chen (7-7) to the mound against Phil Hughes (4-13). This could be considered a must win for the Birds tonight as a loss could drop them to the back of the pack in the six team race for the wildcard.
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