BOSTON — If you're trying to make sense of the Orioles' otherworldly string of 16 straight extra-inning victories, don't even bother.
"You don't question the things you don't understand," manager Buck Showalter said moments after the Orioles shook off a late-inning comeback by the Boston Red Sox on Saturday afternoon and scored three runs in the 12th for a 9-6 victory at Fenway Park. "You just sit back and watch it happen."
If you want to put it into some kind of perspective, consider the fact that a game that goes into extra innings is, by its very nature as a tied game in regulation, a pretty even proposition. Then start flipping a coin and see how long it takes you to get 16 straight heads or tails.
Chances are, your thumb will fall off before you succeed.
There are intervening factors, of course, that have given the Orioles an advantage. They've got a terrific bullpen and they've got some mojo. How else do you explain designated hitter Chris Davis throwing two scoreless innings to win a 17-inning game against the Red Sox at Fenway when this streak was in its infancy back in May. They've also got the king of the managerial button-pushers.
"I think Buck puts us into position to make it not a coin toss," said special assistant to the executive vice president Brady Anderson. "Even when you get odd stats when you do toss a coin, I don't think that is how things come down to this team at all."
It is the longest string of consecutive extra-inning wins by a major league team since the Cleveland Indians won 17 straight way back in 1949, and it dovetails nicely with another amazing number. The O's have not lost a game they led after the end of the seventh inning all year (68-0).
This one had the makings of a real tough loss, especially considering that the Orioles are in a very tight battle with the New York Yankees in the American League East with just 11 games left on the schedule.
The O's seemed to have it in hand when Ryan Flaherty drove in two runs to break a tie in the sixth and Adam Jones gave them a three-run lead with his 31st home run in the seventh, but the reeling Red Sox still had some fight left in them. They rallied to score a pair of runs off reliever Jake Arrieta in the bottom of the seventh and tied the game with a pair of wall shots off setup man Pedro Strop in the eighth.
Once it got past the ninth, the Orioles appeared to have history on their side, since they haven't lost an extra-inning game since the first week of the season and the Red Sox had lost their last six at Fenway Park. But you could also make the case that the law of averages had to be lurking somewhere nearby.
Showalter laughs at the notion that when the Orioles get into extra innings now they have a big advantage because they are "in our element."
"If we were so good at it," he said, "we'd win them all in the 10th inning."
Well, as Anderson was correct to point out, it's not just a case of the law of probability stretched to its limit.
"It's really amazing," said former O's shortstop Mike Bordick, an analyst for MASN. "It takes a combination of a lot of things — a good bullpen, clutch hitting and good defense. But the bottom line has been the bullpen. The relievers have been so good, I just can't say enough of them."