Having scored a total of five runs over the first two games of their American League Division Series, the Baltimore Orioles were desperately in need of an offensive boost—to say the least. Through the first two games of the series, the Orioles were batting only .227 with three extra-base hits, none of which were home runs.
In Wednesday’s heartbreaking,12-inning loss at Yankees Stadium, the team finally notched its first long balls of the series, courtesy of rookies Ryan Flaherty and Manny Machado.
Flaherty—receiving his first start of the series at second base—turned on a hovering slider from Hiroki Kuroda for a solo shot in the third inning. The Yankees ultimately tied the game, 1-1, which held until Manny Machado stepped to the plate in the top of the fifth inning.
Called up on August 9, Machado was a key component in the Orioles’ epic postseason surge, as they went 33-19 following his promotion.
Until his home run in the fifth inning, the right-handed hitter was scuffling at the plate and a combined 0-for-7 through the series’ first two contests. Machado gave the Orioles the lead with the solo shot, though they would ultimately relinquish it in the later innings.
However, Flaherty and Machado weren’t the only Orioles youngsters that enjoyed a big Game 3, as the team’s starter, 28-year-old Miguel Gonzalez, threw seven dominant innings in a no-decision effort.
With a three-pitch mix of an 88-91 mph fastball, a breaking ball and an excellent splitter, Gonzalez kept the Yankees offense off balance all night. Seemingly in sync with catcher Matt Wieters, he rarely appeared to shake off his backstop and spotted up exceptionally well throughout the game.
The right-hander ultimately allowed one run on five hits over seven excellent innings and recorded eight strikeouts without issuing a walk.
But despite the performances of all three rookies, the O’s were unable to hold their early lead and ultimately succumbed to the mighty lumber of Raul Ibanez—a phrase seldom uttered.
While it was nice to see Flaherty, Machado and Gonzalez play well on a national stage, the nonexistent production from players like Wieters, J.J. Hardy and Adam Jones is disconcerting. The aforementioned players should be leading the offense by example during the most important games of the season but are a combined 4-for-38 (.105) through three contests.
Unless their key hitters begin to produce in a hurry, the Orioles' magical season may be quickly nearing the end.