With the games remaining in the regular season dwindling, the Orioles blew another chance to gain ground in the American League wild-card race with a 5-4 loss to the New York Yankees on Wednesday in front of an announced 20,141 at Camden Yards.
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“Being in September, being in the race, losing a game late, that's going to be tough,” Hunter said. “This is a resilient crowd, a good group to be around. Hopefully [we'll] come back tomorrow and go to work.”
Despite being passed by the Yankees (78-68) and falling to fourth place AL East standings, the Orioles (77-68) remained just 1 ½ games back of the second AL wild-card spot after the Tampa Bay Rays' 7-3 loss to the Boston Red Sox in 10 innings. But they could have been closer
The Orioles blew a one-run, eighth-inning lead in a 7-5 loss Tuesday night. A day later, they spoiled a solid start from right-hander Scott Feldman, who held the Yankees to three hits over 7 2/3 innings but left with the game tied at 3 in the eighth.
After going 29-9 in one-run games in 2012, the Orioles are an AL-worst 16-26 in one-run contests this year. And with just 17 games remaining in the regular season, there's not much time left for a sprinkling of Oriole Magic dust.
“We've got to be better,” center fielder Adam Jones said. “We've got to be stronger in the later innings as an offense and a defense and a pitching staff. This is a team loss. You can't pin it on one person, because everybody that dons that Oriole uniform, we're all in it together. As a team, we've just got to be that much better. That's really all there is to it.”
Buck Showalter said his bullpen again wasn't at full strength, with at least one reliever dealing with physical issues, forcing the Orioles manager to work with limited options. Late-inning reliever Darren O'Day has pitched just twice in the past two weeks.
“It is what it is,” Showalter said. “The Yankees have had some situations they've had to deal with, too. So it's part of it.”
But Showalter was confident in the power arm of Hunter in the ninth against the heart of the Yankees' batting order. He backed away from the temptation to throw Hunter on a second consecutive day Tuesday to keep him fresh for Wednesday. So instead of turning to closer Jim Johnson — who was warming in the bullpen in the bottom of the eighth — he stayed with Hunter.
“They're both good options, and we feel like we have the same opportunity to win either way,” Showalter said. “Obviously Jimmy has had a lot of outings this year, but Tommy is fresh and ready to go. Either way you go, getting that part of the lineup out is going to be a challenge.”
Hunter (4-4) hung an 0-1 changeup over the plate and Cano jumped on it, sending his 27th homer of the season into the center-field stands. The Yankees added the eventual winning run on Lyle Overbay's two-out single off left-hander Troy Patton, which came two batters after Curtis Granderson's triple against Hunter that was just out of the reach of Jones in left-center.
“Yeah, it was a catchable ball,” Jones said. “I'm not going to make any excuse. If I had another shot at it, I'd have caught it. But it was a tough play. I just didn't come up with it. I gave it all I had.”
Brian Roberts' two-out RBI single off Mariano Rivera put the tying run on base in the bottom of the ninth. But Manny Machado swung through Rivera's final fastball as the future Hall of Famer converted his 43rd save of the season and his 79th career save against the Orioles, most against any club.
Feldman, coming off the first shutout of his career in his previous start, didn't allow a hit until the fifth inning and recorded his fourth quality start in his past five outings. He allowed three runs —two on solo homers by Granderson and Alex Rodriguez.
Trailing 1-0 in the third inning, Chris Davis gave the Orioles the lead with a two-run, two-out double, pulling a ball through a shift on the right side of the infield on a 2-0 pitch.
Davis' hit, which followed back-to-back two-out singles by Roberts and Machado, was the Orioles first baseman's 40th double of the season. He's the first player in club history to have 40 homers and 40 doubles in the same season, a feat accomplished 35 other times in major league history.
The Orioles took advantage of a leadoff double by Danny Valencia in the fourth, when J.J. Hardy laced a 2-2 pitch into the right-center field gap to score Valencia and give the Orioles a 3-1 lead.
Valencia, who entered the game hitting .360 against left-handed pitching this season, was 3-for-3 against Yankees lefty Andy Pettitte and then added a fourth hit — tying his career-high — with a two-out single off right-hander David Robertson (5-1).
Feldman didn't allow a hit until Granderson's leadoff homer in the fifth inning, which cut the Orioles' lead to 3-2. Granderson blasted a 2-2 fastball an estimated 422 feet, the 10th homer to land on Eutaw Street this season, breaking last year's single-season record.
Rodriguez hit his second homer of the series with two outs in the top of the sixth, taking Feldman's first-pitch delivery over the grounds crew shed in right field to tie the game at 3.
Pettitte — whose 28 career wins against the Orioles are the most among active pitchers — received a no-decision, allowing three runs on nine hits over 6 1/3 innings with three strikeouts and one walk.
The Orioles have wasted many opportunities against their division rivals this week, but they are somehow are still well within striking distance.
“There's a lot of baseball left,” Showalter said. “Tonight was a tough night for us, like last night, but these guys will turn the page and compete their rears off tomorrow. Anybody that would want to close the door on us would be making a mistake.”