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BAL@NYY Gm5: McLouth nearly ties it with a homer

NEW YORK -- For a team that started the spring with so few outside expectations, that the Orioles' end to the season -- which featured the organization's first playoff game in 15 years -- was met with a sense of emptiness was a testament to what manager Buck Showalter's club accomplished.

A gritty Baltimore club that frequently showed its resolve -- battling back for Thursday's 13-inning win to force a winner-take-all Game 5 -- fell short Friday night, ending a storybook season with a 3-1 American League Division Series loss to the Yankees.

"They are special group," said Showalter, whose team went 93-69, won the AL Wild Card game over Texas and two of five ALDS contests in its first season over .500 since 1997. "It's been about as much fun as I have had in the big leagues, watching how they play the game every day, the standard they held themselves to and the way they raised the bar in Baltimore with each other. It was about them. They cared about pleasing their teammates and playing to a certain standard."

"I think there's more frustration and disappointment [right now]," Orioles outfielder Chris Davis said of the season's abrupt end. "But in the next few days when you sit down and reflect over what's happened the last six or seven months, we've got a lot of things to be proud of. To go from a bottom-of-the-division team to a competitive team that was playing in the postseason, we're not where we want to be, but we made a lot of strides in the right direction this year."

Friday's defeat advanced New York to the AL Championship Series to face the Detroit Tigers and leaves the Orioles wondering what might have been in a season full of pleasant surprises in which the young club showed its moxie time and again.

"We just didn't get it done, it's as simple as that," said center fielder Adam Jones, one of numerous Orioles hitters who struggled during the series. "But I think our fan base knows that we gave it our all. We beat a lot of odds, proved a lot of people wrong. The thing is, you just got to repeat it."

"It was a blast," Orioles first baseman Mark Reynolds said of a season that brought true meaning to the club's catchphrase "BUCKle Up" and reawakened baseball in Baltimore. "[It was] proving you guys wrong all year long. It was a good ride and we're going to take the experience we gained from this and remember how much this stings and be ready to roll next year."

The Orioles' final loss came down to the struggling offense, as they watched a potential eighth-inning rally end with just one run -- leaving the bases loaded -- as Yankees ace CC Sabathia turned in a complete-game effort. The O's went 3-for-22 with runners in scoring position over their final three games, with Nate McLouth the only regular to bat over .215 in the five-game series.

With the Orioles down, 3-0, catcher Matt Wieters gave Baltimore its second hit of the night with a leadoff single in the eighth and rookie Manny Machado walked to bring the potential tying run to the plate in Reynolds. Reynolds struck out on a full-count offering, but Lew Ford found a hole with an RBI single to put the O's on the board.

No. 9 hitter Robert Andino grounded a ball back to Sabathia, who fielded it and looked to third base. But with no one covering the bag, Sabathia turned and threw late to second, giving Andino an infield hit to load the bases. But that's as close as Baltimore would get as McLouth -- the Orioles' best hitter this postseason -- struck out on four pitches and Thursday hero J.J. Hardy grounded out on a slow roller to shortstop.

"I'm proud of the effort of the whole organization," first-year executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said. "We took some great strides forward. We're a first-division outfit. To win 96 games is really an accomplishment and I'm proud of the work and effort that everyone did.

"Obviously we're disappointed in today's game. But we got beat by a good pitcher today. We got our opportunities in the series to win the series. [In a] short series, you need to convert when you have the opportunity and we didn't quite convert on all of our opportunities."

The loss wasn't without controversy for the AL East rivals, as McLouth came within inches of tying the game on a two-out ball hit into the right-field seats in the sixth. With the Orioles down, 1-0, on Raul Ibanez's RBI, McLouth's ball -- ruled foul initially -- was put under review after Showalter came out to argue. The call held up, with replays showing inconclusive evidence, and McLouth struck out on Sabathia's next pitch.

McLouth, who said he was satisfied with the ruling, admitted it could have been a potential game-changing hit.

"I really do think it was a big momentum changer," McLouth said. "They had just scored the half-inning before and that would have tied it. But in the end, our downfall was we just weren't able to get the big hit this series like we had so often."

Orioles starter Jason Hammel, who cruised through four perfect innings, allowed the Yankees to take a lead they would never relinquish in the fifth. Mark Teixeira opened with a single and surprisingly stole second in a play that would come back to haunt Baltimore. Teixeira, who had two stolen bases the entire season, put himself in scoring position for Ibanez's center-field single, and the move paid off for the Yankees. Hammel got Nick Swisher to ground into a double play and, after Curtis Granderson's hit, Russell Martin flied out to end the inning.

Hammel allowed the Yankees to push the lead to 2-0 with a one-out sixth-inning walk to Derek Jeter, who came around to score on Ichiro Suzuki's double. Hammel struck out Robinson Cano after that and exited in favor of lefty Troy Patton, who gave up a seventh-inning solo homer to Granderson.

"We're not going to hang our heads at all," Hammel said. "We accomplished a lot of good things, and inside this clubhouse we know what we put into this thing. The sky's the limit for us. We challenged ourselves to really do better, and tons of expectations among us, outside they can say what they want, but we knew we had it in us and we're going to continue to work hard."

"It's a good year," Wieters added. "It stings right now, but at the same time, this is the baseball that the Baltimore Orioles want to play, and this is a starting point for us."

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