Yanks and Orioles fittingly go down to the wire

For 10 weeks, the Orioles whittled away a 10-game deficit in the American League East to the Yankees, eventually drawing even in mid-September. Back and forth the teams went all that month with Baltimore unable to unseat the Yankees from first place.

The two clubs wound up opposing each other in the AL Division Series in another see-saw skirmish that fittingly will go down to the wire. There is no more appropriate way for the Yankees and the Orioles to settle this business between them that on the field at Yankee Stadium Friday night in a winner-to-advance finale.

“It is pretty fitting,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “It has been a grind the whole year. It has been a fight to stay ahead of this club the whole year.”

Game 4 Friday night went 13 innings with the Orioles coming back from a hard, 12-inning loss Thursday night to win, 2-1, in one of their patented one-run, extra-inning affairs. The Orioles are 17-3 postseason included in extras this year, but all three losses have been to the Yankees.

Each side used eight pitchers. It came down to David Phelps giving up a pair of doubles to Manny Machado and J.J. Hardy in the 13th for the deciding run. Jim Johnson, who blew a save opportunity Thursday night on the first of Raul Ibanez’s two dramatic home runs, retired the side in order in the bottom of the 13th.

For the second straight game, Yankees manager Joe Girardi pulled Alex Rodriguez for a pinch hitter against the right-handed Johnson. Ibanez had already been used off the bench in the ninth as a pinch hitter for Jayson Nix and grounded out. Batting for A-Rod in the 13th was fellow third baseman Eric Chavez, who lined out to Machado at third base to end the game.

Phelps entered the game in the 12th after Joba Chamberlain was struck in the right elbow by the top half of Matt Wieters’ shattered bat on the follow-through of his single to left field. Phelps got the next three batters out but was in immediate trouble in the 13th when Machado lined a double to right-center.

Nate McLouth, who had accounted for Baltimore’s run in regulation time with a homer run in the fifth off Yankees starter Phil Hughes, advanced Machado to third base with a grounder to the right side. It proved unnecessary when Hardy doubled to left-center. He also got to third on an infield out but was stranded as Adam Jones made the third out on a pepper shot.

Keeping the rally to one run kept the Yankees’ chances alive to tie the score with one swing as Ibanez had done the previous night. Mark Teixeira, Robinson Cano and Chavez came up short, which brings this tug of war between the two best teams in the AL East to an apt conclusion.

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