"I was just excited to be playing in front of this stadium, these fans. I've been thinking about this day for a while. It has been somewhat of a grind for me this year, just being in this clubhouse and amongst these guys, it means the world right now."
Sidelined since this spring with a back injury, Teagarden lifted Joaquin Benoit's pitch just over the wall to secure the series-tying victory and erase what would have been a devastating late-game collapse for Baltimore. The Orioles' 13th inning scoring started in with J.J. Hardy, marred in an 0-for-28 slump, picking an opportune time to break out. The Orioles shortstop sent Benoit's pitch into the left-field stands for a towering homer that marked his first hit since July 3 and evened the score at 6 after reliever Matt Lindstrom surrendered a run in the top half of the frame.
After Adam Jones was hit by a pitch to keep the inning alive, Teagarden hit a 1-2 high fastball, that caught just enough of the plate, just hard enough to teeter over the right-field fence. The O's catcher, who entered the game after Matt Wieters was lifted for a pinch-runner in the 10th, stopped for a moment around first-base thinking it was a double. Once it was ruled a homer, Teagarden ran to the pile of excited teammates as fast as he could, with Jones, Robert Andino and Mark Reynolds doing the damage to the Orioles' latest walk-off hero.
"[They] got me good," Teagarden said of the shaving cream celebration. "[I] never saw it coming."
The same can be said of Teagarden's clutch homer, his first in the Majors since August 18, 2010, as a member of the Texas Rangers. The game-winning power stroke erased the ill will generated from some poor Orioles defense, a blown three-run lead in the ninth inning and an offense that had gone missing for the previous seven innings, giving the O's their seventh win in the last 21 games. It also ensured that the fabulous effort of starter Wei-Yin Chen, who fired six strong innings, wouldn't be wasted.
"This is a scratch-and claw team," manager Buck Showalter said of a plucky Oriole club that has won 10 consecutive extra-innings games this season. "There's nobody in the dugout going, 'Oh my goodness, we're playing this many innings in this much heat.' Everybody was enjoying it. They don't take themselves too seriously, and they love the competition. Especially against a team with that type of talent, and quite frankly, that type of payroll."
Closer Jim Johnson, fresh off his first All-Star appearance, couldn't shut things down in a three-run ninth inning that dissolved the Orioles' lead and let the game go into extras. The right-hander, who entered the game with an American League-leading 26 saves, surrendered a leadoff single to Miguel Cabrera and, one out later, third baseman Ryan Flaherty's error put Delmon Young on as well. Jhonny Peralta singled in a run and Brennan Boesch crushed a double into right field to plate another pair of Tigers and bring the game within one.
After Johnson struck out Avila, Quintin Berry tied it up with a blooper into left field that Endy Chavez fielded and threw home to nab Boesch in an inning-ending play. The damage in the three-run frame -- only one of which was an earned run charged to Johnson -- spotlighted a troublesome Orioles' defense which extended its Major League-lead to 77 errors.
"I did more bad than good today," said Johnson who has blown two saves this season, both which resulted in Orioles' wins. "But that happens. Obviously with a three-run lead, that shouldn't happen. I was obviously upset about it. I got over it by the 12th and I was out there rooting for the guys. You can see what happened, a great team win."
They couldn't have gotten there without Chen, who was lost in the day's events but set the tone early. With news that Jason Hammel is leaning toward right knee sugery -- adding more uncertainty to an already-unreliable starting staff -- Chen gave Baltimore something to feel good about in six strong innings. He rebounded from a 21-pitch first, retiring 15 in a row after Prince Fielder's RBI double, and held the Tigers to just two hits on the afternoon. Chen exited the 108-pitch performance with a three-run lead and a rousing ovation from the crowd of 43, 215 at Camden Yards.
"I wanted to go deep and be consistent, and after the first inning I felt really strong," Chen said through his interpreter. "I finished strong. And I just feel great that I can help the team to get a win."
The team's struggling lineup -- which posted double-digit hits for just the fourth time in 24 games -- scored four runs in three innings, but was unable to get anything going after that. The two teams traded runs in the 11th, with Orioles reliever Miguel Socolovich charged a run in his Major League debut, before Teagarden's fateful blast.
"It was a great game," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "There's no other way to put it, it was a great baseball game. A lot of good things happened, and it was just a terrific, terrific game. It was Major League baseball at it's best with two teams going at each other and both teams coming back and nobody giving up on either side. It doesn't get any better than that."