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September 19, 2012

What You Need to Know

Wednesday, September 19

by Daniel Rathman

The Tuesday, er, Wednesday Takeaway
It took five hours and 44 minutes, 16 pitchers, and 536 pitches, but when all was said and done at Safeco Field early Wednesday morning, the Orioles came away with their 14th consecutive extra-inning victory and their third in a row overall.

Mariners starter Erasmo Ramirez kept the visitors off the scoreboard for the first eight innings of the game and carried a 2-0 lead into the ninth thanks to Miguel Olivo’s fourth-inning homer, but he could not complete the shutout. A two-run single by Chris Davis, off closer Tom Wilhelmsen, knotted the tally at 2-2. Then the madness began.

Both teams had ample opportunities to end it. The Mariners had two on and one out in the bottom of the 10th, but Jesus Montero and Michael Saunders struck out. They got a leadoff double in the 12th, but Montero and Trayvon Robinson—who entered the game when Saunders was ejected for raising hell about home-plate umpire Jordan Baker’s strike zone—whiffed that chance away, too. Baltimore put runners at the corners with one out in the top of the 17th, but line drives off the bats of Lew Ford and Omar Quintanilla found the gloves of Carlos Triunfel and Kyle Seager.

And so they kept playing into the 18th, the Orioles’ first foray into a ninth extra frame since Aug. 24, 1969, when current Nationals manager Davey Johnson was the team’s second baseman. It was Baltimore’s second 14-plus-inning contest in six days, with the other being a 3-2 nailbiter over the Rays on Sept. 13. And, best of all, Wei-Yin Chen had the distinct pleasure of starting both of them.

But Chen wasn’t the only Orioles starter to appear in the marathon. In fact, four members of their Opening Day rotation found their way into the box score, with Jake Arrieta, Brian Matusz, and Tommy Hunter getting the call in relief. Hunter worked the 16th and 17th innings to pick up his first win in exactly two months, before Jim Johnson—who did more dry humping in the bullpen than teenagers at a high school dance—retired the Mariners in order in the 18th for his 44th save.

And if that’s not enough #weirdbaseball for you, get a load of this. Olivo entered yesterday’s game with four walks in 287 plate appearance this season. The 34-year-old drew two free passes in his first 21 career trips to the plate, but only 147 in the ensuing 3,831. Naturally, in addition to going yard, he took three more trots to first on bases-on-balls, the first time he had done that in 1,076 big-league contests. And to top it all off, Olivo also stole second base in the 11th inning, the only swipe for either team in the equivalent of two games of play.

Still, for all of Olivo’s unique contributions, the Mariners could not halt the Orioles’ seemingly unbreakable streak of extra-inning wins. Eric Wedge’s team went 0-for-17 with runners in scoring position, leaving 16 men on base along the way.

That opened the door for Baltimore, which had endured its own case of the RISP blues for much of the game. Buck Showalter’s squad was 1-for-10 with runners at second or third—with Davis’ ninth-inning single representing the only knock—heading into the 18th, when Nate McLouth walked and J.J. Hardy perfectly executed a hit-and-run by shooting a single into the area vacated by the second baseman Seager. Taylor Teagarden kept the rally going with an RBI single, and later, Mark Reynolds added an insurance run on a 5-6 fielder’s choice where the shortstop Triunfel recorded the putout by stepping on third base.

And that putout wasn’t the most bizarre achievement of the half-inning. That honor goes to Teagarden, who collected his seventh hit of the season with the aforementioned flare to right field. Unbelievably, three of those seven have been game-winners.

Yet for all of the oddities on display in the 4-2 decision at Safeco Field last night, nothing rivals this one: it’s September 19th, and the Orioles are in a virtual tie with the Yankees for first place.

What to Watch for on Wednesday

  • A super-soaker in the sky drenched the East Coast on Tuesday, washing out games in New York and Washington, D.C. and leaving Dodgers beat writer Dylan Hernandez wondering if he was trapped in a tornado. The aftermath: two doubleheaders (Blue Jays-Yankees and Dodgers-Nationals) today, and another (Phillies-Mets) on Thursday. The action kicks off in the Bronx, where Andy Pettitte returns to the mound after spending nearly three months on the disabled list with a fractured ankle in the matinee portion of the day-night docket (1:05 p.m. ET, 7:05 p.m. ET). Aaron Harang and Jordan Zimmermann will duel at Nationals Park three hours later in game one of a true twin bill (4:05 p.m. ET). John Lannan will make his second start since replacing Stephen Strasburg in the rotation immediately following the conclusion of that contest, taking on Josh Beckett under the lights.
  • As the Athletics run through their late-season gauntlet, Brett Anderson has drawn quite possibly the two most challenging assignments in the American League—a date with Jered Weaver in Anaheim last week, and now a duel with Justin Verlander in Detroit. The A’s were on the wrong end of a 12-2 rout in Tuesday’s opener, so Anderson will be called upon to turn things around. He’ll need to be careful with Miguel Cabrera, who hit his 39th and 40th homers of the season to drive in half of the home team’s runs in game one. Cabrera’s eighth-inning grand slam was the Tigers’ first four-run homer this year (7:05 p.m. ET).
  • When Marco Estrada faces the Pirates, strikeouts abound. The 29-year-old righty fanned 10 Pittsburgh batters in seven innings on Sept. 1 and sent 11 back to the dugout in 5 2/3 innings on July 14, thus recording more than one-sixth of his 125 total strikeouts in just two of his 26 appearances. Estrada gets a third crack at the Bucs in the middle match of the series at PNC Park, where the visitors can clinch a series win. The home team will counter with rookie Kyle McPherson, a 2007 14th-rounder who makes his first major-league start after logging a 1.54 ERA and an 11-to-2 K:BB over seven relief outings, all of which, through little fault of his own, came in Pittsburgh losses (7:05 p.m. ET).
  • Jimmy Rollins’ real-life team is almost certain to miss the playoffs, but the Phillies shortstop may win plenty of championships for his fantasy owners. Over the past seven days, Rollins has gone 11-for-27 (.407 average) with four home runs, five stolen bases, 11 runs scored, and seven RBI, providing outstanding contributions in all five standard offensive categories. The 33-year-old will try to stay hot in tonight’s matchup with Mets rookie Matt Harvey, who held Rollins to a 1-for-4 outing with two strikeouts in a New York victory on Aug. 29 (7:10 p.m. ET).
  • Assuming the Orioles and Mariners wake up in time, they’ll finish off the three-game set tonight. Baltimore’s reward for sputtering to a four-run output in last night’s game is a battle with Felix Hernandez less than 24 hours later. The Mariners’ ace hasn’t been himself so far this September, coughing up 18 runs (16 earned) and 30 hits en route to three consecutive losses. With his Cy Young award hopes in grave danger, Hernandez needs a dominant effort to wash away the bitter taste he has left in voters’ mouths. Matt Wieters, who went 0-for-7 in game two but has already smacked five homers and drawn 11 walks this month, is 5-for-13 (.385 average) lifetime against King Felix and will try to back his batterymate, Joe Saunders, in the finale (10:10 p.m. ET). 

Daniel Rathman is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Daniel's other articles. You can contact Daniel by clicking here

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