Sometimes, it's hard to tell where the good pitching ends and the poor hitting begins, but not on Thursday night.
The Oriole Park crowd of 19,598 saw one of the best pitching duels of the 2016 major league season, but neither Kevin Gausman nor New York Yankees ace Masahiro Tanaka would be rewarded for a terrific performance in the Orioles' 1-0 extra-inning victory.
The win would eventually go to Zach Britton (2-1), who came back five days after jamming his ankle against the Chicago White Sox to pitch 1 1/3 scoreless innings before Pedro Alvarez drove home pinch runner Nolan Reimold with a sacrifice fly for the deciding run in the bottom of the 10th.
Gausman became the first Orioles starting pitcher to complete eight innings this season, and he did it in grand style, holding the Yankees scoreless on three hits and striking out four. Tanaka also pitched eight scoreless innings and gave up just five hits, striking out seven.
"That's a lot of fun," Gausman said. "I kept telling myself in the dugout, 'If he's not going to give in I'm not going to give in.'"
They didn't do it with mirrors. Both were simply overpowering and almost unhittable. Gausman finally gave way to Darren O'Day to open the ninth and Britton came on to get the last out of that inning.
Well, he didn't actually get the last out. He threw a 3-1 pitch past Brian McCann and Matt Wieters made a terrific throw to pick Starlin Castro off second base to get the Orioles out of a sticky situation.
That wouldn't be the only big play in the ninth. Right fielder Dustin Ackley made a great leaping catch at the right-field wall to rob Wieters of a potential game-winning extra-base hit and than easily doubled pinch runner Joey Rickard off first base to send the game into extra innings.
Orioles fans were thrilled to see Britton back on the mound, but he was obviously a bit rusty. He fell behind McCann 3-0 in the ninth before throwing two strikes and benefiting from Wieters' great pickoff throw. He also opened the 10th inning by walking McCann on four pitches, then fell behind Mark Teixeira (Mount Saint Joseph) before striking him out. Then it was lights out. He struck out Carlos Beltran and Ackley swinging to end the 10th.
"I felt pretty good," Britton said. "The command was a little bit everywhere, but I had almost a week off so I just had to find a way. I ended up going into a slide step with [Brett] Gardner on. I think that kind of got me back on track a little bit. I just kind of stopped thinking about physically how I was doing."
Double trouble, part deux: Manager Buck Showalter acknowledged that the Orioles had been overeager against Yankees starter CC Sabathia the night before when they hit into three double plays in a span of four innings, but conceding the problem apparently is not the first step toward correcting it. Jonathan Schoop came up with two on in the fourth after Hyun Soo Kim worked a long at-bat for a walk and scraped the first pitch to third for an inning-ending double play to extend the Orioles' scoreless innings streak to 16.
Ice pack mystery solved: First baseman Chris Davis was wearing an ice pack around his left thumb Wednesday night and did not take batting practice on the field Thursday. He's apparently trying to shake off a bat bruise, but it's nothing that is expected to keep him out of the lineup. He played the entire game.
Next team up: The Orioles face an old friend in the opener of this weekend's three-game series against the Oakland Athletics. Left-hander Rich Hill, who pitched for the Orioles in 2009, is off to a solid start this year as a member of the A's starting rotation. He's 3-3 with a 2.53 ERA in six starts. Ubaldo Jimenez will make his sixth start of the season for the Orioles.