09/19/10 7:45 PM ET
Scott sets up Wigginton's heroics in 11
Homer off Rivera in ninth precedes walk-off hit against Yanks
By Brittany Ghiroli / MLB.com
How the jubilant Orioles got there -- to a 4-3 11-inning win that saw Luke Scott cross the plate to secure walk-off win No. 12 -- was far more complex.
It was thanks, in part, to reliever Matt Albers, who found himself on the hill in the fourth inning tasked with putting "some sanity" back in a game that was in danger of slipping away. Albers' 2 1/3 scoreless innings started an impressive bullpen showing that included Koji Uehara's 12-pitch 10th -- which saw all three Yankees go down on strikes -- and Michael Gonzalez's recovery from a leadoff walk and two-base throwing error to stop New York in its tracks.
"More than anything, I think it's good for our psyche," Gonzalez said of a win that stunned the Yankees and improved the Orioles to 7-1 in extra innings against the American League East this year.
"We have proven we can go out there and play against Tampa Bay and play against New York and Toronto, and get it done just as well. So it's obviously a good thing for the team overall."
Bullpen bravado aside, it was Scott's bat that secured win No. 59. With the O's down to their last three outs, Scott blasted Yankees closer Mariano Rivera's 1-0 pitch over the right-field scoreboard to tie the game at 3. It was just the second homer allowed by Rivera this season and the first hit by an Orioles batter since Nolan Reimold went yard on May 20, 2009.
"Considering the situation, the best closer I think that's ever taken the mound, it's just another experience that I'll never forget," Scott said of arguably his most important homer this season. "I'm thankful for the opportunity and the way things worked out. It was a lot of fun against a real good team."
Scott's homer, which teammate Kevin Millwood has called the "happiest" kind of blasts he's seen, put the momentum back on the home side, for perhaps the first time all afternoon.
"[It was] right in his happy zone," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said of Scott's career-high 27th blast. "And he didn't miss it."
The O's bullpen didn't miss a beat, as Uehara opened the top of the next frame by dissecting the Yankees' lineup, striking out Nick Swisher, Jorge Posada and Curtis Granderson.
"That's about as impressive a thing as happened today," O's manager Buck Showalter said of Uehara's performance, which came on the heels of Friday's blown save, his second against New York this season. "If you had any questions about the moxie a little bit ... not that I did ... but that's one of the reasons we put him back out there. We could have easily gone with Gonzalez or someone else, but I thought it was important that he pitch there. And knew full well that he might get outs there, too."
Instead, Gonzalez followed Uehara and issued a leadoff walk to Alex Rodriguez in the 11th. With a 1-1 count to Ramiro Pena, Gonzalez's attempted pickoff throw went wayward, granting pinch-runner Eduardo Nunez third base and putting the Orioles in a compromising spot. Gonzalez struck out Marcus Thames and Showalter called for a pair of intentional walks -- to Mark Teixeira and Derek Jeter -- to bring Lance Berkman to the plate.
"I thought the key was striking out Thames -- once we did that, it opened up some options," Showalter said. "You try to take a shot at winning the game instead of not losing it."
It paid off, as Gonzalez got Berkman to slam the ball into the ground, resulting in an inning-ending double play that started with rookie third baseman Josh Bell.
"That was a terrible pitch," Berkman said of Gonzalez's offering. "That ball was hanging right in the middle of the plate. There's no reason to not hit that ball hard. I just didn't do it."
And it left the Orioles a prime opportunity that started with Scott's leadoff single. Wigginton followed with the game-winning hit to improve the Orioles to 13-3 in extra-inning contests.
"They let us hang around and hang around and hang around," Showalter said of the Yankees, who chased starter Chris Tillman early but only mustered three runs. "As each inning passed and the score stayed there, once it goes to 3-2, there was a real positive feeding frenzy. We call it the PFF and there's an NFF. When you're walking all those people, there's a negative feeding frenzy. It's such an emotional, mental game, it plays into it physically a lot."
Once Yankees starter Andy Pettitte left, the positives picked up. Corey Patterson opened the eighth with a single off Boone Logan, and Matt Wieters followed with with a single off Logan's replacement, Kerry Wood. Pinch-hitter Felix Pie drove in Patterson with a bloop single into center field to put the Orioles within a run.
Pettitte -- making his first start since exiting a game on July 18 with a left groin strain -- held the Orioles to just three hits over six innings and continued an impressive undefeated run against Baltimore that dates back to July 2007. The O's had no answer for Pettite's shortened performance, with leadoff man Brian Roberts' left-field single the lone ball that landed safely in the outfield.
By contrast, Tillman labored, walking six batters for the second consecutive outing and allowing three runs over 3 2/3 innings.
"That's not going to work," Showalter said of Tillman's outing."He was fortunate in Detroit and he was fortunate today not to give up more, but probably one of the keys to the game was the job our bullpen did.
"There was a lot of 'want-to' out there today, and that's what I was most proud of."
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.