O's drop behind Yanks after finale loss

O's drop behind Yanks after finale loss

O's drop behind Yanks after finale loss
BALTIMORE -- Here's why times have changed at Oriole Park.

In years past, there might not have been too many long faces after the Orioles saw the Yankees hand them a 13-3 loss on a beautiful Sunday afternoon in early September at Camden Yards. The Orioles still got out of the four-game series with a split. Look hard enough and a few smiles probably would be found.

But not in these times and not on this day. The loss gave the Yankees (79-61) first place in the American League East with the Orioles just one game back (78-62). Baltimore got the four-game split with the Yankees after taking two of three at Yankee Stadium last weekend.

That ended the season series against the Yankees with both teams having won nine games. The last time Baltimore beat New York in a season series was 1997.

The Orioles weren't doing major celebrations based on that. They still want more. They want the playoffs and even to win the division.

"I'm proud of the way our guys competed against them," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "You go in that clubhouse and you poll our guys and see how many know what our record was against the Yankees. They want to know what our record is against the Yankees when the season is over, 162 games."

For much of the summer, those who follow the Orioles were pointing toward how far the surprising team needed to go to earn a Wild Card spot. Showalter and his team often are thinking differently. They're literally shooting for the moon.

During the 1989 season, famously known as the "Why Not?" year, the Orioles went from the worst record in baseball the season before to having a shot at first place in the season's final weekend.

Welcome to the remaking of "Why Not?"

And the players are enjoying the process.

"Every game [is important], we've got 22 games left, something like that," center fielder Adam Jones said. "Every inning, every pitch is important from here on out, pretty much."

A win in this game would have been huge and put the team back in first place. The Orioles pulled out a controversial 5-4 victory over the Yankees on Saturday night, but still were smarting from the loss of Nick Markakis and his broken left thumb. After the game, Showalter and Markakis said he'd be having surgery Tuesday, and the outfielder said it could speed up the recovery time by three weeks.

With that timetable, Markakis could return in four weeks -- just in time to join a deep postseason run by the Orioles. But only time will tell on both those points.

Not much went Baltimore's way on this day. Starter Zach Britton (5-2) came in with a career-best four-game winning streak but just didn't have it. He battled control problems throughout his 3 1/3-innings stint, allowing five runs on five hits while walking five and striking out just two.

The biggest problems came in a four-run fourth, when he walked three in a row and four overall, two with the bases loaded as New York turned a one-run game into a 5-0 lead.

"They stayed with a good approach, not chasing those balls that start at the knees and were going down," Britton said. "And I just didn't make the adjustment that I had to. When I got ahead, I got the results I wanted, I got the ground balls. But in the situations where I really needed to get ahead, I wasn't able to do it."

The Orioles tried to make a run, scoring three in the bottom of the fourth thanks to Wilson Betemit's two-run double and a Matt Wieters RBI single. That cut the lead to 5-3 and knocked out New York starter Freddy Garcia.

But the Yankees' bullpen held the Orioles to just one hit in the final 5 2/3 innings. Joba Chamberlain (1-0) struck out four in 1 2/3 innings and got the win, his first since May 2, 2011.

"This is a resilient team," New York manager Joe Girardi said. "They have a lot of fight, and they came back today." Curtis Granderson took over after that. He came off the bench for a pinch-hit homer in the sixth and added a two-run single in the seventh and a two-run double in the eighth to finish 3-for-3 with five RBIs despite playing just four innings. Derek Jeter added a two-run homer in a five-run eighth to help out.

So the Orioles finished with a split and passed yet another test, jumped over another hurdle and landed on their feet. That's what keeps happening in this season.

The first big goal with this team was to have a winning record. But the bar's set much higher now. They're shooting for bigger and better things. This surprises many, but the American League East is featuring a race for the top spot, and the Baltimore Orioles are in it.

That's why a series split simply isn't good enough any more.

"I feel real good about our players and the things we went through," Showalter said. "We played four, really seven tough battles with these guys. We won four of the seven. We'd like to have won all seven, and I'm real proud of them."

Jeff Seidel is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.