Orioles show resiliency

DAVID GINSBURG AP Sports Writer Published:

BALTIMORE (AP) -- The New York Yankees now must grudgingly acknowledge that these aren't the same Baltimore Orioles they used to knock around with merciless ease.

Rookie Wie-Yin Chen outpitched 40-year-old Andy Pettitte, and the resilient Orioles beat the Yankees 3-2 Monday night to even their best-of-five AL playoff series at a game apiece.

Game 3 will be held Wednesday at Yankee Stadium.

Baltimore fell apart in the ninth inning of the opener Sunday, allowing five runs in a 7-2 defeat. Instead of wilting under the pressure of having to come from behind against the mighty Yankees on Monday, the Orioles stood strong.

"I think that's been big for us all year, the fact that we've been able to put our losses and obviously our low points behind us, really learn from them and bounce back," said right fielder Chris Davis, who had two RBIs.

Before this year, the Orioles endured 14 straight losing seasons and were 79-140 against the Yankees over that span. But during this wildly successful comeback season, Baltimore has thus far split 20 games with New York.

"They have a good team," Yankees captain Derek Jeter conceded.

"It seemed like Baltimore and us have kind of gone back and forth all year and that's what we did here," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.

Baltimore's turnaround from Game 1 was typified by the performance of closer Jim Johnson, who yielded all five of those ninth-inning runs on Sunday before finishing Monday's game with a 1-2-3 ninth.

"(Sunday) night was just a hiccup," Baltimore first baseman Mark Reynolds said. "He obviously showed what he was capable of tonight."

Afterward, Orioles owner Peter Angelos made a rare appearance, shaking hands with virtually every player he came across in the clubhouse.

"It's always good to see the man that signs your check," center fielder Adam Jones said. "I think it means a lot to him and it obviously means a lot to the players to see the owner appreciates you going out there and busting your tail for him, for the organization and for the city."

The Yankees, by virtue of finishing two games ahead of the Orioles in the AL East, have home-field advantage and will host the remainder of the games in the series. But Baltimore won all three series at Yankee Stadium and won't be intimidated by playing there for the right to advance to the AL championship series.

"I think the biggest thing for us is we feel comfortable playing in New York," Davis said.

Hiroki Kuroda will start for New York against rookie Miguel Gonzalez, who was 2-0 with a 2.63 ERA in two starts in the Bronx this season, striking out 17 and walking only one in 13 2-3 innings.

In Game 2, the Orioles used the same formula that got them into the postseason: a magnificent bullpen and an ability to win tight games. Baltimore was 29-9 in one-run decisions during the regular season and 74-0 when leading after seven innings.

"I think having our bullpen having been as consistent as it has been gives us that confidence in these one-run games," Reynolds said. "Overall, we had the confidence today. Going into the ninth inning with a lead, we knew we were going to win."

Chen gave up two runs, one earned, and eight hits over 6 1-3 innings. The Taiwan native, who pitched previously in Japan, was 1-2 with a 5.25 ERA in four outings against New York this season, including two in September in which he yielded a total of 11 runs over 11 1-3 innings.

"Chen did a good job of keeping us in the game," Davis said. "To hold that offense to two runs is saying something, and we were able to get timely hits when we needed it."

Chen left with a 3-2 lead, and the bullpen made it stand up. Johnson retired Derek Jeter and Ichiro Suzuki on grounders and struck out Alex Rodriguez to end it in front of a rollicking crowd at Camden Yards.

Much earlier, Suzuki's deft dancing at the plate put the Yankees ahead.

Pettitte, whose 19 wins and 43 starts are the most in postseason history, allowed three runs and seven hits in seven-plus innings.

"I thought he pitched a really, really good game," Girardi said. "I thought he had really good command of his fastball, his curveball, really all his pitches."

Pettitte came out of retirement before this season hoping to pitch again in the playoffs. He was effective; Chen was just better.

"It's a playoff game," Pettitte said. "If you give up too many runs, that number doesn't have to get too high until you know you're going to get a loss."

Pettitte, however, got little offensive backing. New York stranded 10 and went 2 for 8 with runners in scoring position.

"They were tough. We weren't able to get the big hits with runners in scoring position," Pettitte said. "It was a frustrating game and one you hate to lose. It would have been nice to get this one, that's for sure."

After Davis hit a two-run single to put Baltimore up 2-1 in the third inning, Matt Wieters led off the sixth with a double and scored on a single by Reynolds to make it 3-1.

But New York came right back in the seventh. Eduardo Nunez got a double when Davis couldn't catch his blooper to right and Jeter followed with an RBI single. After Suzuki hit into a fielder's choice, Darren O'Day replaced Chen and struck out Rodriguez as Suzuki stole second. Brian Matusz came in and issued an intentional walk to Robinson Cano to set up a matchup with Nick Swisher.

Swisher was 1 for 18 lifetime against Matusz and 1 for his last 32 in postseason play with runners in scoring position. A wild pitch moved up the runners, but the percentages held up, as Swisher hit a routine fly ball to left.

The Yankees used the nifty footwork of Suzuki to take a 1-0 first-inning lead, and it had nothing to do with his speed on the basepaths.

Jeter led off the game with a single and Suzuki reached when Reynolds fumbled a bare-hand pickup at first base for an error.

Rodriguez hit a low line drive at second baseman Robert Andino, who caught it and doubled up Jeter. Cano followed with a drive to the base of the right-field wall for a double. The relay from Davis to Andino to Wieters beat Suzuki to the plate by plenty, but he dodged the tag coming toward home.

Suzuki then circled around the batter's box, juked around the catcher's desperate lunge and touched the plate an instant before Wieters' glove found its mark.

Pettitte retired the first eight batters before Andino hit a bloop single with two outs in the third. Nate McLouth also singled, and a four-pitch walk to J.J. Hardy loaded the bases for Davis, who lined a single to right.

Jones followed by grounding a single just beyond the reach of Jeter at shortstop, but Hardy stopped at third after failing to spot third-base coach DeMarlo Hale waving him home. Wieters then popped out with the bases loaded.

In the fourth, the Yankees used two singles and a walk to load the bases with one out. Nunez popped out before Jeter bounced into a forceout.

Tigers at Athletics

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Ideally, Jim Leyland would have everybody hug it out and play ball.

Just as Detroit's Justin Verlander and Coco Crisp of Oakland did on the field for Monday's workout day ahead of their teams' Game 3 in the AL division series Tuesday. The Tigers lead 2-0 and are one win from advancing to a second straight AL championship series.

Leyland insists reliever Al Alburquerque meant no ill will toward the Athletics when he fielded Yoenis Cespedes' ninth-inning comebacker and quickly kissed the ball before throwing to first. Yet the manager disagreed with the display.

"Everybody always says I'm from the old school, so I'd have probably hugged it first," Leyland joked. "I don't think it was the right thing to do. I will sit here today and I will not try to defend it. I will say that I can assure everybody, including the Oakland A's, Al Alburquerque did nothing intentionally to offend the Oakland A's. A lot of emotion is shown in different ways in the game anymore. You see a lot of different variations of personal celebrations as well as team celebrations.

"It wasn't a smart thing to do, but I can honestly tell you that there is no way that Al Alburquerque or any members of the Detroit Tigers would ever do anything intentionally to offend another team. It just would not happen," Leyland said.

As upstart Oakland returned home hoping to pull off another improbable sweep like the one against Texas last week to capture the AL West crown, that controversial smooch was still plenty talked about in both clubhouses.

Alburquerque said he did speak to his teammates, and that they knew his gesture was "within the emotion of the game."

"I respect Cespedes and I didn't do it out of disrespect," the pitcher said. "I was just excited to get the out."

Still, that didn't mean the Tigers weren't surprised by it.

"I said, 'Did I see what I just saw?'" catcher Gerald Laird said.

Cespedes was eager to get to his baseball work Monday, saying: "That's his problem. It doesn't bother me. It was his turn to win. Someday it will be my turn."

Even though everybody realized full well they should be focused on the game itself.

"I know him, so I know he didn't mean much by it," injured A's third baseman and former Tiger Brandon Inge said. "But I'm sure he's going to regret it. Honestly, this is something that's going to be blown out of proportion because it's a unique story and it's something that doesn't happen much. For us, our ultimate retaliation or comeback would be to win three. We're not concerned with the actions of one person. On their side, I'm sure he didn't really want to stir up a hornet's nest over here either."

Right-hander Anibal Sanchez (4-6), a midseason acquisition from Miami who was steady down the stretch, will try to pitch the Tigers to another postseason sweep of Oakland.

Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera is still looking for his first RBI of the series, but is hitting .375 (3 for 8) with two doubles, no strikeouts and a walk.

Lefty Brett Anderson (4-2) gets the ball in his postseason debut as the A's try to prolong their season for one more day. Anderson, who looked strong in six starts after a 14-month absence recovering from elbow ligament-replacement surgery, is coming back from a right oblique injury he sustained falling awkwardly off the mound in a start at Detroit on Sept. 19. He hopes to work deep without a pitch count, though pitching coach Curt Young said he'd likely be around 80.

"It's going to be fun," he said. "I don't think I'll have to dial it down. ... A postseason game in Oakland, there hasn't been one for a while."

The Tigers swept Oakland out of its last playoff series -- in four games of the 2006 AL championship series. None of the current A's were on the team then, and only two were even in the organization.

The task is daunting: win three straight at home. Yet this A's team has accomplished unheard of feats in a season full of walkoffs and victories celebrated with whipped-cream pies.

And, just last week they took three in a row from the two-time reigning AL champion Rangers to stun Texas for the AL West crown in Game No. 162 last Wednesday.

That late-season surge erased a five-game deficit, and the A's became the first time in major league history to do so over the final 10 games to win a division or pennant. They trailed Texas by 13 games on June 30.

"Nobody knew we were good until the end," Oakland's Jonny Gomes said. "We had Major League Baseball right where we wanted them: We tricked them into playing 162 games."

Now, Oakland will attempt to become the first playoff team in franchise history to come back from down 2-0. In six of the previous seven series when the A's lost the first two games, the wound up getting swept.

Oakland will try to get its offense going after striking out 23 times in the first two games, including 14 in Saturday's 3-1 loss in Game 1. The A's hit a majors-leading 112 home runs after the All-Star break.

A's manager Bob Melvin isn't worried about the K-fest, and neither are his players. Josh Reddick has six of the strikeouts after hitting a team-best 32 home runs during the regular season.

"If you're going to be aggressive, you're going to swing hard," Gomes said. "If you're going to hit home runs, you're going to swing hard."

Yet Melvin knows firsthand how good Sanchez can be. The 28-year-old Venezuelan pitched a no-hitter for Florida during his rookie season of 2006 against Melvin's Arizona Diamondbacks. Oakland shortstop Stephen Drew also was on that Arizona team, while Cabrera played for the Marlins.

Leyland has experience with this year's playoff format, featuring the higher seed opening on the road for the first two games.

Facing the favored San Francisco Giants, Florida won the first two games at home, then completed a three-game sweep of the NL division series at Candlestick Park on the way to the title -- Leyland's lone championship in 21 years as a manager.

These Tigers sure seem primed for another special October run.

First, they'll have to deal with a loud Coliseum crowd that has come alive over the past month as the A's emerged as a surprise contender, then clinched the club's first playoff berth in six years.

For Melvin, whatever happened Sunday is now in the past. He has bigger concerns at the moment.

"I respect Jim Leyland about as much as I respect anyone," Melvin said. "I think there are varying degrees of all that stuff, showmanship. ... I don't think there's one right or wrong way. Emotionally after a game when something like that happens you're always going to hear something from somebody. But you move on. It's not a big deal for me."

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