It’s safe to say that everything in life has a price. When I say everything, I mean literally everything…including the Baltimore Orioles’ 5-4 win over New York last night to pull even in the AL East once again. In the last of the 5th Nick Markakis was hit on the wrist by an 0-2 CC Sabathia pitch, and head trainer Richie Bancells came out of the dugout quick. When you saw him spend very little time with Markakis on the field before the two of them headed towards the clubhouse, you knew it was bad. Nick Markakis doesn’t willingly leave games. Later on we got word that he had a broken left wrist, and would miss the remainder of the regular season.
Markakis came back onto the bench later on and MASN cameras caught manager Buck Showalter hugging Markakis near the tunnel; Showalter was visibly moved on Markakis’ behalf after the game as well. Showalter did say that if the Orioles progressed deep into the postseason there was a chance that Markakis could return to the team, however at the moment the goal is to get to the postseason. And the Orioles will have to do that without the guy that’s been one of the best lead off hitters in baseball since returning from injury in July. Showalter’s comment about winning without Markakis was that he’s only one piece of the team, and he most certainly has a point. It’s almost a next-man-up mentality when someone gets hurt like this in a pennant race; it just makes the road a lot tougher.
New York put two runs on the board in the first two innings to take an early lead, however these are still the Fighting Showalters we’re talking about. Mark Reynolds continued his hot streak against New York with a solo shot in the last of the second, and that was immediately followed by another solo homer by “Sweet Lew” Ford. The O’s took the lead in the third as Nick Markakis scored on Hardy’s RBI-double, and suddenly the Orioles had the lead in this all-important game before a sellout crowd at the yard. Hardy would later homer and Jones would later score on a Lew Ford RBI-single, both in the 6th, to give the Birds a 5-2 lead.
Remember folks, these are the New York Yankees about whom we’re talking here. They don’t just go away for the most part, evidenced by Alex Rodriguez‘s solo homer off of Pedro Strop in the 8th. Strop was later lifted in favor of Brian Matusz, but he’s certainly had a rough go of it late in that he can’t seem to located his fastball. As we moved to the last of the ninth, NY managed to put a run across against Orioles’ closer Jim Johnson, and they loaded the bases with one out and Maryland native Mark Teixeira coming to the plate. Teixeira would send a grounder (which was no doubt slowed by the wet infield grass due to the rain earlier in the night) to Andino who got the out at second base. Hardy’s relay back to first was going to be a bang-bang play, and to Teixeira’s credit he layed out head first trying to beat the throw to the bag. And for the record, he did beat the throw…but was called out. Game over, Orioles win.
Having said all of this, I’m a person that can be very critical of umpires and referees, in true Earl Weaver/Gary Williams fashion. The Orioles are a team that has seemingly seen more bad calls over the course of the season with regard to the strike zone or even safe/out than many of us have ever seen. Yet when the mighty Yankees are suddenly the team that’s affected, we never seem to hear the end of it. Both Mark Teixeira and manager Joe Girardi were extremely critical of the call. One reporter even asked Girardi if it was especially bad to lose to that team on a call like that. (An underhanded dig at the O’s perhaps?) If you’re the Orioles you’d rather win without the ump making a bad call in your favor, but as we’ve said so many times when the shoe’s been on the other foot, there isn’t much that you can do about it except play on. There were also multiple reports that Girardi got into a nose-to-nose argument with NY Post reporter Joel Sherman in his office after the game, and the two had to be separated by ballpark security.
The concern for the O’s right now is the lead off spot and who’s playing right field. My personal opinion is that Nate McClouth should lead off and play left semi-regularly, and that several folks (including Chris Davis) should see some time in right. The Orioles also have the young and quick Xavier Avery on the bench, who was a September call-up, and I suspect that he might figure into the mix as well. If there’s one thing that Showalter’s done it’s manager the mix of players in a virtuoso manner this year, and Oriole fans should have no reason to think that won’t be the case again now. Markakis was no doubt an important piece of the puzzle, however the key could now be McClouth. He’s played lights out since coming to the O’s in early August, and I think that his bat and veteran presence will figure prominently in the post-Markakis stretch here in September.
The O’s have a chance to take three-of-four this afternoon if they can pull out another win against New York, and they’ll send Zach Britton to the mound in hopes that he can quiet their bats. He’ll be opposed by NY’s Freddy Garcia. If the Orioles can win today, they’ll go into Monday’s off day alone in first place by one game in the American League East.