Once again, Manny Machado simply would not be denied.
The Orioles third baseman hammered a two-out, walk-off home run early Wednesday morning to complete a crucial and unlikely comeback in a 7-6 victory over the American League wild-card rival New York Yankees before what was left of a crowd of 14,377 at Camden Yards.
The game was delayed for more than two hours by rain and for most of the night the Orioles probably wished it had never stopped, but the fans who stayed got to see a four-homer performance that featured two shots by Machado and the continuation of his duel with Jonathan Schoop for the club home run lead.
With the dramatic win, the Orioles evened the series with the Yankees and avoided moving to the brink of a three-game sweep that would have seriously damaged their wild-card prospects. And it looked for a very long time like that was going to be the case.
Midseason acquisition Jeremy Hellickson struggled badly for the fourth time in his past five starts and the patient Yankees hitters wasted no time taking full advantage. The Orioles would need a little more time to get after Yankees starter CC Sabathia.
Hellickson self-destructed in the third inning and was charged with five runs after allowing two hits, two walks and a hit batsman before there were two outs. His line would have looked a lot better if Adam Jones had not dropped a fly ball in center field right after he left, which helped the Yankees score three of the six runs in the inning.
"We've just got to fight through it, stay with it, not worry about what happened and go ahead and come back to the plate and chip away, little by little," Machado said. "The next inning, we came up and got a run. Then we got another one — and little by little — you can't win the game with just one at-bat and nobody on."
Manager Buck Showalter was quick to point out how tough it is to bounce back from such a deflating meltdown.
"It is, but it's a reminder of what these guys are made of," he said.
The Orioles trailed 6-1 at that point, but Machado launched his 31st home run of the season to lead off the bottom of the third. Schoop apparently didn't appreciate being knocked out of a tie for the club home run lead, so he launched his 31st home run of the year in the fifth.
The Orioles obviously wanted to avoid the possibility of a sweep at the hands of the team they hope to knock out of the top AL wild-card slot, and they had their chance after Mark Trumbo hammered a two-run homer in the sixth to make it a one-run game.
The homer was Trumbo's 22nd of the season and it extended his hitting streak to seven games. He's batting .344 over that span with two homers and six RBIs.
That left the Orioles with a third of the game remaining to get one more run after New York starter CC Sabathia exited the game, but they were headed into the heart of the Yankees bullpen and that wasn't going well.
"You see the arms and the people they run out there after the fourth or fifth inning," Showalter said. "Really, after the third or fourth inning, including Sabathia. It's really hard to do that.
Three Yankees relievers delivered scoreless appearances, with Aroldis Chapman pitching the eighth inning before Dellin Betances came on to finish up in the ninth. He was one out away from his 11th save when he walked Tim Beckham to bring Machado to the plate. One minute, the O's were on the verge of a very painful loss and the next they were watching a ball land in the bullpen area behind the center-field fence and rushing out to celebrate their 12th walk-off win of the season.
Machado tried to act as if it were no big deal.
"We prepare every day out there, and we do our routines and everything before games — BP, in the gym, try to keep it the same so we're prepared for situations like that and prepared for big game," he said "I think it's all about preparation, what we're doing. Everyone who plays this game, everyone knows how to play it and we just go out there and enjoy ourselves and we're ready to play once 7 o'clock comes around."
The Orioles got solid relief appearances from left-hander Richard Bleier and minor league call-up Jimmy Yacabonis while they battled back in the middle innings. Then they went with their best to get scoreless innings from recently demoted starter Ubaldo Jiménez, Darren O'Day, Brad Brach and Zach Britton, who would get the win.
The Orioles are one game behind the Los Angeles Angels for the second wild card. New York dropped 3 1/2 games behind the Boston Red Sox in the AL East but remain the top wild card.