SEATTLE – As Tuesday’s game against the Seattle Mariners marched on, it became pretty obvious what the Orioles needed to do: Get Seattle rookie starter Erasmo Ramirez out of the ballgame and then play, you know, nine more innings before they bothered to score again.
The Orioles won their 14th consecutive extra-inning game on Wednesday morning, 4-2, in the 18th inning – the second longest contest in Safeco Field history.
“The whole dugout was alive the whole game,” said Orioles manager Buck Showalter. “It wasn’t ever a, ‘woe is me, we’ve got to play another inning.’ There were so many opportunities to give in. And they didn’t. Hats off to the Mariners. They did the same thing.”
Reserve catcher Taylor Teagarden, who has seven hits this season including three game winners, blooped a pinch-hit single down the right field line to score Nate McLouth to give the Orioles the lead in the 18th – the first time either club had scored since the ninth inning. The Orioles added another run on a fielder’s choice, and Jim Johnson closed it out for his 44th save of the season.
It lasted a tidy five hours and 44 minutes, fourth longest, time-wise, in Mariners’ history and fifth in Orioles’ history.
The Orioles (84-64) have won 14 straight extra-inning games – after losing their first two of the season. That’s the most in baseball since the 1949 Cleveland Indians won 17 consecutive extra-inning games. Incredibly, the Orioles are 7-0 in games that go at least 13 innings in 2012, and they improved to 4-61 this season when trailing after eight.
Perhaps more important, they are again tied for first in the American League East with the New York Yankees, who had their game rained out Tuesday.
“I’m just so proud,” Showalter said. “Just when I think they can’t top something they’ve done. They do.”
It was the fourth time the Orioles have played 18 innings in their history, and the first since consecutive 18-inning games on Aug. 24 and 25, 1969. The club’s longest game, innings-wise, was a 19-inning victory over the Washington Senators on June 4, 1967. Their longest this season was 17 innings in Boston on May 6 when position player Chris Davis got the win.
“We had already taken Chris Davis out of the game, so we were in a bind there,” Showalter joked.
Six Orioles played the entire game, including catcher Matt Wieters.
“Matt, I kept looking for a spot to pinch run for him,” Showalter said. “It’s like catching a doubleheader. The fortunate thing is it’s not 95, 100 degrees like it is when he is catching in the summer. So hopefully we’ll see what tomorrow brings. I’ve got to sit down and consider some things. We’re obviously a little short in the pitching department.”
The Orioles chased Ramirez in the ninth, when they matched their offensive output from the first eight innings with two hits and then plated both runners against Seattle closer Tom Wilhelmsen.
It took them nine more to score again, but the Orioles finally did.
“A few of us had the best 0-for-7s we’ve ever had,” Jones said. “It’s a long game, that’s evident, but everybody hung in there, everybody kept playing. Everybody kept giving their all. That’s all you can ask.”
Davis' two-run single against Wilhelmsen wiped out a potential win for Ramirez, who was superb, allowing just two McLouth hits through eight. He left in the ninth to a standing ovation – complete with the Mariner Moose mascot dancing on the home dugout – from the announced 12,608.
When it was over, a few hundred people remained in the stands – ones that watched the Mariners score two runs in the fourth on a Miguel Olivo homer against Wei-Yin Chen and then didn’t see the home team cross the plate again through 14 more innings.
Jake Arrieta, Brian Matusz, Darren O’Day, Pedro Strop, Steve Johnson, Tommy Hunter (5-8) and Jim Johnson combined to throw 12 2/3 scoreless innings of relief, allowing just six hits and four walks while striking out 16 batters.
Hunter got the win – and an unexpected present in what was perhaps fitting for such a crazy night.
As he was about to enter the game in the 16th, one of many seagulls flying overhead at Safeco Field deposited droppings on Hunter’s Orioles cap.
“I was minding my own business, not doing anything. I thought it was [reliever Luis] Ayala throwing stuff at me. You know, he usually does,” Hunter said. “I just thought someone threw a piece of gum and hit me. It wasn’t a piece of gum, man. Everybody just started dying laughing. Then everybody said it was good luck. Than we won.”
At one point, pitching coach Rick Adair brought the cap over to Showalter to show him what had happened.
“Tommy just wanted you to see this,” Adair told Showalter. “I said, ‘I know how he feels.’ It broke up the whole dugout. Everybody was laughing about it. You’ve got to take it that way.”
In a not-so funny reality, the Orioles have to go for the sweep Wednesday against Seattle’s Cy Young Award candidate Felix Hernandez.
It’s going to be an exceptionally tough assignment with a depleted bullpen and tired hitters having to face one of the baseball’s most challenging hurlers. Showalter said he would have to try and figure out a plan.
Early Wednesday morning, though, he was just glad the win was finally secured.
“I feel it. Believe me,” he said. “Take a look at me. And I don’t have to play. It is nothing compared to what these guys have to go through.”