NEW YORK – With midnight approaching, the Baltimore Orioles’ bats awoke for one more improbable rally.
Now they have a last shot to finally overtake the New York Yankees.
J.J. Hardy hit an RBI double in the 13th inning and Baltimore bounced back from a demoralizing loss to outlast the Yankees, 2-1, Thursday night, forcing a deciding Game 5 in the AL division series.
After splitting 22 games this year, it all comes down this: a winner-take-all game for a spot in the AL championship series.
Game 1 winner CC Sabathia was set to pitch the deciding game for the Yankees. Orioles manager Buck Showalter had not announced his starter.
The Orioles were 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position until Hardy doubled off David Phelps with one out to score Manny Machado. 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.
Jim Johnson bounced back from allowing Raul Ibanez’s pinch-hit homer in the ninth inning Wednesday to earn his second save in the series.
Hours after learning Joe Girardi had kept quiet that his father died 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 wrapped up the division on the final night of the regular season.
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 29-9. 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.
The team that caught the Yankees in September didn’t rattle, though.
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 before going on a run of 16 straight wins after the ninth inning.
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.