BALTIMORE – The exuberant Orioles fans at Camden Yards were all handed white towels to wave, but it certainly didn't represent a symbol for their team, which has fight left. The hometown Birds, showing characteristic pluck and poise, is back even with the $200-million neighbors to the north, the most surprisingly common position all year.
The Orioles head to New York with a real chance in the Division Series after beating Andy Pettitte, the winningest pitcher in postseason history, and a team with possibly five Hall of Famers in its lineup, the latest a string of improbable accomplishments in their imppssible season. Buck's boys lack glamor or name recognition, but they believe.
And why not? After 165 games (164 by the Yankees), they are again all square, tied with three games to go in the Division Series, thanks to a big performance by unheralded Taiwanese import Wei-Yin Chen and the usual collection of contributions by the less known, the low paid and the under-rated.
The twice-released Nate McLouth had another big hit for the Orioles, and so did pesky No. 9 hitter Robert Andino. The Orioles, which finished 20 games over .500 during the regular season, did it again in a 3-2 win.
It's luck, pluck and Buck Showalter, the mellowing genius in the Orioles' manager's office who started as the Yankees' manager two decades ago and must be enjoying this more than he'll let on.
The remarkable Yankees starter Pettitte, who overcame a broken foot, a year off and 39 other years (he's 40), turned in a vintage performance. But the upstart Orioles, who won't quit, strung enough hits in a two-run third inning, with coming star Chris Davis providing the two-run single that put the Orioles ahead to stay after Ichiro Suzuki's fancy footwork on a play at home in which he stepped away from and then over Orioles catcher Matt Wieters.
But even with Ichiro and all his Cooperstown-bound teammates (the Yankees' first four hitters in their lineup are likely Hall of Famers while their No. 8 hitter swatted 43 home runs this year), the Orioles are making the team they love to hate here sweat. The Yankees even looked shaky on a couple plays, as the normally unflappable Derek Jeter made one error and the usually flawless-fielding Mark Teixeira made another.
the night's biggest surprise though was Chen outdueling Pettitte before everyday Darren O'Day, then Brian Matusz and Jim Johnson of Orioles' shutdown pen closed out their first home playoff win in 15 years. Johnson's final three outs in gaining the save were Jeter, Suzuki and Alex Rodriguez, who may be more assured of being bound for Cooperstown than the ALCS now.