Stunning blows by Ibanez drop O's in Game 3

Stunning blows by Ibanez drop O's in Game 3

Stunning blows by Ibanez drop O's in Game 3
NEW YORK -- They have clung to a label of resiliency all season, proving time and again that you can't count out this Orioles club, which has demonstrated a steely determination over the 162-game season. And as each member of an eerily quiet clubhouse -- dominated by the bright lights of more cameras and microphones than they had in a month combined -- spoke Wednesday night with a steady voice and again echoed a rallying cry, it was tough to doubt the sincerity.

That they were preaching a stance of no panic at all, just two outs away from a pivotal Game 3 American League Division Series win, was even harder to fathom.

Winners of 16 consecutive extra-inning games, Orioles Magic ran dry in a callous end to a pivotal postseason game they had in hand, the kind of one-run contest they had succeeded in almost alarmingly good fashion during the regular season. October, these Orioles are finding out, is an entirely different circumstance.

"It breaks your heart," Orioles starter Miguel Gonzalez said as he watched Yankees pinch-hitter Raul Ibanez homer in the ninth and 12th innings to put Baltimore on the brink of elimination with a 3-2 loss.

"Right now, I'm just out of words. It was a tough, tough game for us."

The road gets tougher from here, with the loss -- in front of 50,497 at Yankee Stadium -- giving New York a 2-1 edge and a significant boost in twice getting to an Orioles bullpen responsible for most of the team's success. Wednesday's debacle featured two of the club's best relievers -- closer Jim Johnson and lefty Brian Matusz -- each allowing a solo homer to Ibanez, who entered the game with one out in the ninth as a pinch-hitter for slumping slugger Alex Rodriguez.

"It's on me, obviously, not executing a good pitch," said Johnson, who led the Majors with 51 saves but has struggled to show his All-Star form in the ALDS. "I had every intention of getting it where I wanted to. You know, just fractions here and there, and in the playoffs they get magnified. It comes down to location again. Frustrating, like I said. I got to get over it quick."

Johnson, who pitched a perfect 10th, allowed five runs (four earned) in the Game 1 loss and has given up two backbreaking homers in 3 1/3 innings this series. This following a regular season in which he surrendered three homers 68 2/3 innings and converted 51 of 54 saves.

"All of us have all the trust in the world in Jim," said Matusz, who also watched Ibanez send one of his fastballs into the seats. "He's been there for us all year and sometimes you just make bad pitches. It happens. And, like I said, you just clear it and move on."

Added center fielder Adam Jones: "What do you want me to do? Cry about it? [Ibanez has] been the trump card all year. Him and [Eric] Chavez. You look at the numbers collectively, and those guys kept them afloat."

Ibanez has been a thorn in the Orioles' side all season, playing a heavy hand in their first extra-innings loss and in sealing a comeback in Boston to help the Yankees maintain an AL East edge.

"I don't even really remember what happened," Ibanez said of the at-bat against Matusz. "It was kind of a blur what happened. I think sometime down the line I'll kind of remember it and recall it."

The Orioles will try to forget it, although the immediate ramification from Wednesday's loss was ugly, squandering a stellar seven-inning start from Gonzalez and homers from rookies Manny Machado and Ryan Flaherty.

"We need to step it up," Jones said of an offense that had just one hit -- Robert Andino's single -- after Machado's leadoff homer in the fifth. "We've got to create the runs. Right now. We haven't been able to do it. That's why you swing the bats. There's not one person in this clubhouse that is discouraged. You look up there, you're hitting under .200 right now with 10 at-bats, but no one's up there discouraged. You've got to keep swinging the bat. You've got to have that confidence that this shall turn, and we'll get it done."

Gonzalez did more than enough on the mound to warrant a win, holding the Yankees to one earned run in a season that started with him not even being in Major League Spring Training. Signed after throwing nine pitches in the Mexican Winter League and having just one career game above Double-A going into the season, Gonzalez struck out eight and didn't issue a walk in a fabulous 99-pitch outing.

"He's been great for us all year and he really stepped up big for us tonight," Orioles outfielder Chris Davis said. "If you had told me before the game our bullpen was going to come in and not be able to close the door, I probably would have called you a liar."

It was equally hard to predict how well Gonzalez, who was initially used as a reliever and stretched out to start due to team need, would fare in his first postseason start in the Bronx.

Gonzalez, who won in two regular-season starts in New York, picked up right where he left off. He scattered five hits and held the Yankees' Nos. 2-5 hitters to 1-for-12 with five strikeouts. The Yankees scored their only run off Gonzalez in bottom of the third inning on Derek Jeter's two-out triple, which sailed past Jones.

Jones misread the ball off the bat -- taking a few steps in -- and couldn't recover, with Russell Martin scoring on the play.

"I point-blank missed the ball," Jones said. "I don't know what happened. I thought it was where it was going to be and thought wrong at that time. It cost us a run."

Flaherty and Machado gave the Orioles a pair of runs, becoming the first two rookies with postseason homers in Orioles history. They also became the first rookie teammates in the Majors to hit their first career postseason home runs in the same game.

Flaherty got the scoring started, belting Yankees starter Hiroki Kuroda's first pitch with one out in the third inning. The 20-year-old Machado followed on the first pitch in the fifth inning, becoming the second youngest player to record a postseason homer -- behind only Andruw Jones at 19.

The Orioles will face an elimination game Thursday night in Game 4 in New York at 7:30 p.m. ET on TBS.

"We've been in this situation before," said reliever Darren O'Day, who tossed a scoreless eighth. "What was it, Friday night? You either win or you go home. That's the mindset we've got to take these next two games."

It's the mantra manager Buck Showalter has echoed all year.

Asked if he was stunned by the late-game turnaround, Showalter said: "Stunned, no. Stunned left me a while ago. ... It's very hard to do what they do. When you see it done with the consistency in the Major Leagues when people do it, Jimmy is a big-hearted, talented guy, that believe me, we'd be at home watching without people like Jim Johnson. He's a special guy. We're real proud of him, and you'll see him again tomorrow night, I hope."

"It's unfortunate, obviously, the way things ended up," Johnson said. "You have to just come back tomorrow. And you trust the guy in the locker next you and the guys that put the uniform on. We all have each other's back."

Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.