The Orioles came out of Saturday with a 7-3 loss to the Yankees, and they came away hoping this won't be a game they think about all winter. They can still celebrate an American League Wild Card berth with the right combination of results Sunday, and they can guarantee their season won't end then simply by beating the Yankees.
"We know what we have to do," Wade Miley said as he stood outside the Orioles' clubhouse early Saturday evening.
Fair enough, but they knew what they had to do Saturday, too. They had to hold an early 3-0 lead generated by a two-run Michael Bourn single and a Manny Machado home run. They had to hold a 3-2 lead with nine outs to go, after Miley had pitched six strong innings and given them everything they could have asked for.
Buck Showalter wanted more.
The Orioles' manager had his reasons. Miley has pitched well of late, and the Yankees hadn't hit him hard Saturday. Showalter also knew the Yankees had Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury and Didi Gregorius sitting on the bench, and he knew those left-handed hitters would stay there as long as the left-handed Miley remained in the game.
"You're going to start that gate opening up," Showalter said.
The Orioles' hitters could have helped out, but they generated just four singles after the third inning. Showalter and the Orioles entered the late innings of the game with no margin for error.
The manager stayed with Miley to begin the seventh inning, and immediately had reason to regret it. A spinning 3-2 slider to Tyler Austin ended up in the Yankees' bullpen in right-center field, and suddenly the game was tied.
"The ball backed up a little," catcher Matt Wieters said. "Maybe a little fatigue there."
With Miley out of the game, Yankees manager Joe Girardi went to those left-handed hitters Showalter didn't want to see. Donnie Hart got McCann to pop up, but Brad Brach walked Ellsbury.
When Chase Headley followed with a double down the line and Austin Romine's single produced two runs, the Orioles trailed for the first time all day. A Brett Gardner double later in the inning put the game away.
"I was not good today," said Brach, who entered with a 1.60 ERA in 70 appearances. "I can't walk [Ellsbury], and then Chase just placed it right."
A game the Orioles needed, one they had in hand, got away just like that.
"It seemed like we were in control for six innings," Brach said. "It's frustrating anytime you have a lead in the sixth inning with the bullpen we have."
The consolation for the Orioles is that their six wins in seven games before Saturday put them in position to survive a game like this. They can still get to the postseason, and they're still in control of their own destiny.
"Tomorrow's what we've been playing the whole season for, anyway," Wieters said.
If Sunday goes well, the Orioles can turn Saturday into simply an ugly footnote.
"They're all tough," Showalter said. "We gave up seven runs, and you're not going to win many games like that."
He's right, of course. But through six innings, in a game that could have left the Orioles securely in a driver's seat, they had given up just two runs and held the lead.
Then it all came apart.
Danny Knobler is a contributor to MLB.com and covered the Orioles on Saturday. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.