The third inning reaction seemed tame however in comparison to the explosion of the 7th inning. After Darren O’Day replaced Troy Patton, he faced a situation with two runners in scoring position and only one out. A ground ball off the bat of Ichiro lead to Robert Andino firing home and Matt Wieters easily tagging out Russell Martin, whipping the sellout throng into a frenzy. Just one batter later that frenzy reached fever pitch when O’Day struck out Alex Rodriguez, the poster boy for the REAL “Moneyball” era of the Evil Empire.
The night reached its crescendo for Birds fans in the bottom of the 8th. After JJ Hardy left off the inning with a double to right field and Jim Johnson began warming in the bullpen, there was an air of inevitability hanging over the ballpark.
“This is really happening. This is Orioles baseball in 2012. You hang just long enough to finally take advantage of one opportunity and overcome earlier mistakes. You then turn the ball over to your closer and feel assured that the end result will be exactly as you hoped.”
It was odd, really. It reminds me of seeing a superhero film. I laughed at those who Tweeted about “spoilers” related to the release of “The Dark Knight Rises” over the summer, reminding that as a superhero movie, we knew how the film would end. But the really good filmmakers-the Christopher Nolans of the world-somehow manage to convince you that you DON’T actually know how the film will end once you’re caught up in the sequence.
That’s been Orioles baseball in 2012. That was how the bottom of the 8th inning felt. We KNEW how the game was going to end, but we were so caught up in the sequence that we weren’t fully sure we knew how the game would end.
Well, this time there was a swerve. Or more like a punch to the gut so vicious you didn’t even THINK about answering the ten count.
Buck Showalter might be forced to think about his decision to not have Adam Jones bunt for a long time. Jones, Matt Wieters and Mark Reynolds will almost certainly replay their at-bats over and over again until the first pitch of Game 2.
The air started to come out of The Yard before Russell Martin’s bomb cleared the left field wall just a few rows in front of my seat. As “The Pretender” hit the loudspeakers, there was hardly recognition from the packed house that All-Star closer Jim Johnson (the franchise’s new single season saves record holder) was entering the game. Ironically, I had turned to my right and asked my cousin “do you still bring Johnson in for the ninth even in a non-save situation?” and didn’t realize the question had already been answered until Dave Grohl had already marched bones in.
The ninth inning was so gory it didn’t allow for much feel of “perhaps there’s still more Orioles Magic to come tonight” as it went on.
Then there was the long walk back to the car…or bus…or train…and the handful of Yanks fans, so quiet for 8 and a half innings…now making themselves known once more in a deflated city.
It was a brutal night for the Baltimore Orioles and O’s fans in general. It might well mark the downfall of one of the most remarkable runs in recent baseball history.
But make no mistake. Sunday night was one of the greatest nights any of us have ever spent in any environment in this place. I watched a playoff game with my father, girlfriend and three cousins. One of those cousins is 14. He has no knowledge of Jeffrey Maier. He was one of many in the stadium Sunday night who weren’t alive to see Tony Torasco robbed in Game 1 at Yankee Stadium.
It can’t take another 15 years to experience this.
See you Monday night.