Spoiler alert: Yankees rally, delay O's party plans
By Danny Knobler and Bryan Hoch
NEW YORK -- The Orioles took this run for the postseason down to the final week. Now it will go down to the final day.
Austin Romine's two-run single off Brad Brach broke an eighth-inning tie and sent the Yankees to a 7-3 win Saturday at Yankee Stadium, ending any chance the Orioles had to clinch an American League Wild Card spot with a day to spare.
Baltimore did clinch a tie for a Wild Card berth, however, after the Tigers lost in Atlanta on Saturday night. That cut the O's magic number down to one, meaning a win Sunday will secure a playoff berth. The Blue Jays' win in Boston moved Toronto and Baltimore into a tie for the top Wild Card spot. If they finish the regular season tied alone atop the standings, the Orioles would travel to play the Jays in the Wild Card Game at Rogers Centre, based on Toronto winning the season series. The Mariners, who had a chance to move within one game of the O's and Blue Jays, were eliminated from postseason contention with a 9-8, 10-inning loss to the A's on Saturday night.
"It would have been a nice game to win," Orioles catcher Matt Wieters said. "At the same time, we're playing for what we need to be playing for tomorrow. Tomorrow's what we've been playing the whole season for, anyway."
If the Orioles don't get it done either Sunday or in a tiebreaker game, if needed, Saturday's game is one they'll regret. They led 3-0 through four innings, on a two-run single by Michael Bourn and Manny Machado's 37th home run, and starter Wade Miley was pitching well.
But Miley gave up runs in the fifth and sixth innings, and manager Buck Showalter then pushed him into the seventh. The decision backfired when Tyler Austin led off the frame with a game-tying homer.
"A couple mistakes I made later in the game, they made me pay," Miley said. "The slider just spun over the middle of the plate [to Austin]."
An inning later, Jacoby Ellsbury drew a one-out walk off Brach, and Chase Headley followed with a double down the right-field line, setting up Romine to drive in the go-ahead runs. Brett Gardner drove in the final two Yankee runs with a two-out double off Oliver Drake.
"It always feels good. Right now, we're playing for pride," Romine said. "You wear the pinstripes, you go out there every day, you expect to win and you want to win. We got to pull one out today."
The Yankees won for the fifth time in their last six games, but they will still head home after Sunday.
Now, they could help send the Orioles home, too.
"Yeah, we want to win," Austin said. "We're not going to the playoffs, so you want to come in every day, have fun and try to win a ballgame."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Seven's not heaven: Showalter had pushed his starting pitcher into the seventh inning just two times in the last nine games entering Saturday. But with Miley at 99 pitches and a one-run lead through six innings, Showalter asked the left-hander for at least one more out. He couldn't get it, hanging a 3-2 slider that Austin was able to send into the Yankees' bullpen in right-center field.
Showalter explained that he thought Miley was throwing well, and also that he wanted a left-hander in the game to keep the Yankees' left-handed hitters on the bench. Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Didi Gregorius didn't start the game against Miley; McCann and Ellsbury pinch-hit in the eighth inning once Miley was out of the game.
"Once you go somewhere else, you're going to bring all those guys off the bench," Showalter said.
Of course there was a home run: The Orioles, the fifth team in Major League history to hit 250 home runs in a season, got to 251 with Machado's opposite-field shot in the third inning. The Orioles have homered at least once in seven of their last eight games against the Yankees (16 total home runs).
Austin powers another: Austin has hit five home runs in his brief Major League career, impressing the Yankees with his power to the opposite field. His seventh-inning shot off Miley landed in the right-field bullpen, with Statcast™ registering a 106.4-mph exit velocity.
"It's been great, getting a chance to come up here and play in meaningful games," Austin said. "It's something that I'll take with me into next year and years to come."
Which way now? Severino's 66-pitch effort completed a season in which he was excellent out of the bullpen (0.39 ERA) and poor as a starter (8.39 ERA). While the Yankees continue to see him as a starter moving forward, manager Joe Girardi wants to see Severino improve his fastball command and his changeup before they guarantee him a rotation spot. Either way, the 22-year-old figures to garner plenty of discussion this winter.
"It's a tough role to get a start at the end of the year when you're not going to make the playoffs," Romine said. "I thought he moved the ball around enough. He kept us in the game long enough against a really good hitting team. Things can escalate quickly with that kind of lineup, and I think he kept us around long enough to fight back."
WHAT'S NEXT Orioles: The Orioles have right-hander Kevin Gausman (8-12, 3.66) set to pitch the final game of the regular season Sunday at Yankee Stadium, although Showalter left open the possibility of a last-minute change.
Yankees: Right-hander Luis Cessa (4-3, 4.18) will start the final game of the Yankees' 2016 season on Sunday, with first pitch set for 3:05 p.m. ET. It will be the final Major League game for first baseman Mark Teixeira, who is completing a 14-year career.