Swisher's walk-off home run hands Orioles 3-2 loss

Yankee ends O's bid for sweep and five-game winning streak with 2-run blast off Uehara

  • Orioles first baseman Ty Wigginton walks off the field as the Yankees' Nick Swisher rounds the bases on his two-run, walk-off home run.
Orioles first baseman Ty Wigginton walks off the field as the… (AP photo )
September 08, 2010|By Jeff Zrebiec, The Baltimore Sun

NEW YORK — —

The final image to what had been the most uplifting stretch of the season was of Orioles closer Koji Uehara staring out to left field, his back to the New York Yankees gathered at home plate awaiting Nick Swisher's arrival.

The Orioles were just two outs away from ending a series in which they had outplayed the reigning world champions in every facet with a five-game winning streak and their first three-game sweep in the Bronx since June 1986.

But Swisher deposited a fastball from Uehara into the visiting bullpen, the two-run, game-ending shot sending New York to a 3-2 victory in front of an announced 44,163 at Yankee Stadium, and avoiding an embarrassing home sweep at the hands of the team with the worst record in the American League.

"That was the one thing I didn't want to give up, a home run," Uehara said through his interpreter, Jiwon Bang. "I'm not feeling good about it."

Uehara was 7-for-7 in save opportunities when manager Buck Showalter summoned him from the bullpen and asked him to protect a 2-1 lead. Alex Rodriguez lined Uehara's first pitch of the inning into left field for a single. After retiring Robinson Cano on a deep fly ball, Uehara fell behind 2-0 to Swisher, who sent an 88 mph fastball the opposite way and over the left-field wall. It was his 26th homer of the season and the third game-ending homer of his career.

"Walk-offs are always rough," Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts said. "It's never the way that you want to end, but as I said, you tip your hat. Alex gets a base hit and Koji is throwing strikes like he always does and Nick hits a good pitch the other way for a home run. You don't like to lose, but if you're going to lose, that's good baseball."

The loss marked the sixth time this season the Orioles (53-87) came up short in their quest to run a winning streak to five games. They also failed to win a sixth straight road game, which would have been their longest such streak since September 2004.

Manager Buck Showalter, who is 21-14 at the helm of the club, has said several times that the Orioles cannot be satisfied with just winning series, but he did applaud his players for beating the Yankees in two of three games and taking a lead into the ninth.

"Believe me, I'm not some curmudgeon that doesn't understand reality," said Showalter, whose team is off Thursday before starting a three-game series Friday in Detroit. "You know, I'm proud of them. They competed their butt off and were a couple outs away. This one stings a little bit when you think about what could have been. But you could have thought about that the last two [games], and we didn't. It's nine innings, and it's relentless when you are dealing with lineups in the American League East."

Showalter did take time to accentuate the positives over the past three days, and there was none bigger than the performance of the Orioles' young starters. Following the lead of rookies Brian Matusz and Jake Arrieta, Brad Bergesen pitched 61/3 strong innings, surrendering just one run, on Brett Gardner's RBI double in the third, and four hits.

In the series, the three Orioles starters allowed just six earned runs in 182/3 innings (2.89 ERA) and surrendered 17 hits and five walks against one of the most vaunted lineups in the majors.

"There's no question, we always try to build off each other," said Bergesen, who got a no-decision but is 3-1 with a 2.62 ERA in his past eight starts and has left all but one of those outings with the lead or the score tied. "When one guy goes out and has a good outing, the next guy wants to go and do better like Arrieta did, and I want to build off that or keep going with it."

Asked what it meant for the starters to perform so well against the Yankees, Showalter said: "Well, who knows? But you know what it could mean. I like the fact that they came out there and threw strikes and attacked the hitters. What teams like the Yankees feast on is timidness and not being aggressive. Those are the kind of thing we preach to all our guys, but especially those guys."

After Bergesen exited, Mark Hendrickson and Jim Johnson retired five of the six hitters they faced as the bullpen continued to shut down the Yankees. Take away Wednesday's ninth inning and the Orioles' bullpen threw 71/3 scoreless innings, allowing just one hit and two walks.

Along with his handling of the bullpen, Showalter also looked good in the fifth inning when he gave Matt Wieters the green light with Adam Jones on second base and no outs. Wieters drove Ivan Nova's 3-0, 91 mph fastball over the bullpen in left field, his 11th home run giving the Orioles the 2-1 lead.

The score stayed that way until the bottom of the ninth inning, when what could have been the Orioles' most improbable and impressive series of the year ended with the Yankees mobbing Swisher at home.

"It's tough," Wieters said. "That's a team where you let them hang around, they're going to find a way to win at the end. But I'll take the [series]. We played well these three games. Just one swing at the end cost us the sweep. We keep playing like this, we're going to be fine."

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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