NEW YORK (AP) — Just maybe the Baltimore Orioles’ remarkable run into October is not so improbable after all.
Seventeen wins in extra innings, 31 victories in one-run games. Staving off elimination from the postseason twice already.
They’ve done all that, and might not be done yet.
Bouncing back from a demoralizing defeat, the Orioles beat the New York Yankees 2-1 in, yep, 13 innings on J.J. Hardy’s double in Game 4 of the division series Thursday night.
Now they get a chance to prove one more time that they’re unflappable, in a winner-take-all Game 5 Friday.
“All these extra-inning games, all these close games. Obviously, it’s fitting with the types of games we played all year,” closer Jim Johnson said.
On Thursday they played past midnight, winning a test of wills with the high-priced Yankees for a chance at a spot in the AL championship series against Detroit.
Game 1 winner CC Sabathia was set to pitch the deciding game for the Yankees against Jason Hammel.
“It’s time to go,” Sabathia said. “This is a one-game playoff, and this is what we play for. We’re here in the Bronx at home, and like I said, I’ll be excited and ready to go.”
The teams have already split 22 games this year, with New York outscoring Baltimore 103-101. And they have been tied or separated by one run going into the ninth inning of each of this series’ four games.
With the innings and hours piling up, the Orioles were 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position until Hardy doubled off David Phelps with one out to score Manny Machado, who had doubled.
“There hasn’t been a whole lot of opportunities to score runs,” Hardy said, “so when there are those opportunities, I think we’re trying a little bit too hard.”
Phelps had relieved in the 12th after Joba Chamberlain was hit by a flying broken bat, forcing him to leave with a bruised right elbow.
Johnson returned from allowing Raul Ibanez’s pinch-hit homer in the ninth inning Wednesday to earn his second save in the series with a perfect 13th.
“I don’t take for granted at any time what these guys are accomplishing so far,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “They know that. I have so much respect for our guys.”
Hours after learning Joe Girardi had kept quiet that his father died last Saturday, the Yankees couldn’t rally late. This time, Girardi called upon Eric Chavez to pinch hit for slumping Alex Rodriguez. He lined out to third base to end it.
Baltimore’s win pushed all four division series to five games for the first time since the round began in 1995.
The Orioles have been pursuing the Yankees all season, cutting a 10-game deficit in July to zero in early September.
Baltimore and New York were tied 10 times atop the East in the final month but the Yankees never completely relinquished the lead and wrapped up the division on the final night of the regular season.
Baltimore advanced to the division series with a win over the Texas Rangers in the wild-card playoff.
“You know, we played an elimination game last week to start our postseason. It’s like a Game 7,” reliever Darren O’Day said. “I think we all got as much playoff experience as we need, especially considering how many times we’ve played them this year. And tonight was an elimination game and tomorrow will be another one.”
After dropping Game 1, the Orioles rebounded with another one-run win in a season in which they had the best record in the majors in such games at 31-10, 2-1 in this series. But they lost in stunning fashion in 12 innings Wednesday night, when Ibanez homered twice in his two at-bats after pinch-hitting for Rodriguez.
Didn’t affect these late-inning savants.
They came right back Thursday for their first win in extras against the Yankees this year. They also lost twice to New York in extra innings in the regular season before going on a run of 16 straight victories after the ninth inning.
“We just kept telling ourselves, this is not the last night of the season,” Hardy said.
It wasn’t easy, though. Nate McLouth homered off Phil Hughes to start the fifth, but Baltimore wasted three shots with a runner on third base in the first four innings. They struggled against New York’s bullpen.
McLouth also made a leaping catch against the left-field wall to save a run.
Matt Wieters knocked Chamberlain out of the game with a broken-bat single to lead off the 12th inning that struck his surgically repaired right elbow. Fans sat silent as Chamberlain bent over in pain. He was checked out by trainer Steve Donahue and Girardi.
Chamberlain tested the elbow with three pitches before walking off the field. X-rays were negative. He’s not sure if he’ll be available for Game 5.
“You kind of see how it feels and go from there,” Chamberlain said. “It’s definitely not as stiff as it was when it first happened.”
Many of the Orioles gathered near their bat rack in the dugout for an impromptu cheer before the 13th and Machado then led off with a double.
One out later, Hardy hit a one-bouncer off the wall in left field for his first RBI of the series.
The hit came after another Orioles quirk — the players held Gatorade bottles and wiggled them in the dugout, trying to conjure up a rally.
Showalter professed confidence in the 51-save Johnson before the game. He backed it up by calling on him for his fourth appearance of the series. Johnson lost the opener after giving up five runs in the ninth and sandwiched saves around his trying homer to Ibanez.
Seven Baltimore relievers pitched 7 1/3 innings of four-hit ball.
“There’s really good pitching,” Girardi said. “You’re seeing some really good pitching in these four games.”
Baltimore needs it because its top hitters are missing a lot. Mark Reynolds is 3 for 16. Hardy is 3 for 18. Wieters is 2 for 17 and Adam Jones is 2 for 19.
The Yankees held a moment of silence for Girardi’s dad, Jerry, who died Saturday at 81 and had a long bout with Alzheimer’s. Joe Girardi stood alone in front of the Yankees dugout and wiped his eyes after the national anthem. He blew a kiss to someone in the stands, then fist bumped several coaches and players.
Facing elimination for the second time this postseason, Showalter turned again to Joe Saunders. Acquired by Baltimore on Aug. 26 from Arizona, Saunders pitched 5 2/3 innings of one-run ball in the wild-card win over Texas.
He was just as crafty against New York, engaging with Hughes in a duel of who could get out of the tougher jam.
The Yankees put a runner on in every inning against Saunders but failed to score until the sixth.
Derek Jeter lined an outside pitch to right field for a leadoff double in sixth, showing no ill effects of a bruised left foot that kept him from playing shortstop in the postseason for the first time in his career.
He advanced on Ichiro Suzuki’s sacrifice and scored on Robinson Cano’s grounder to second. Showalter then lifted Saunders for right-hander Tommy Hunter to face Rodriguez. A-Rod struck out to loud boos and tossed his bat.
Rodriguez is 2 for 16 (.125) with nine strikeouts in the series.
NOTES: Curtis Granderson has struck out nine times in 16 at-bats this postseason. … Hughes and Saunders combined to walk seven after there were no walks Wednesday in 12 innings.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)