09/09/12 1:13 AM ET
Playoff feel at Camden stirs passion on both sides
Controversial call irks Yankees; Markakis' fractured thumb disappoints Orioles
By Richard Justice / MLB.com
Cue the pennant-race tension.
"Sometimes, you wonder if the umpires are just trying to get out of there," Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira said Saturday night.
Tell us how you really feel, Tex.
"They don't want you to make a comeback, they want to go home, because those are terrible calls," he added.
Regardless of whether Teixeira was right about the calls -- and he appeared to be dead on about the most important one -- he probably talked himself into a nice little fine.
Meanwhile, Yanks manager Joe Girardi got into it, loudly, with a New York columnist, Joel Sherman of the New York Post.
After a testy postgame exchange, they could be heard going at it in Girardi's office.
And to think that life around the Yankees had gotten so dull these past few years. They always seemed to say the things they were supposed to say and do the things they were expected to do.
They set all kinds of standards for professionalism, but there were times when some wondered if they had enough fire.
This just in: They have plenty of fire. They have emotion, too.
Seeing how we're not even halfway through September and the Yanks have 23 games remaining, it's getting late real early, to paraphrase Yogi Berra.
Yogi's wit would serve the Yankees well at a time like this, when their 10-game lead has vaporized and they're facing a final push with a struggling rotation and an erratic offense.
Down the hallway from the Yanks, the Orioles had issues of their own in dealing with the bitterly disappointing news that leadoff hitter Nick Markakis would miss at least the remainder of the regular season after a CC Sabathia fastball broke a bone in his left hand in the third inning.
"What do you want me to say?" O's center fielder Adam Jones asked. "It [stinks]."
Now to the game itself. Yes, there was a game. The Yankees and Orioles packed Camden Yards again, drawing 46,067 on Saturday night.
The O's won it, 5-4, to once more gain a share of first place in the American League East at 78-61.
The two teams exchanged punches for nine innings. The Yanks struck first. The Orioles rallied.
When Baltimore manager Buck Showalter summoned his closer, Jim Johnson, to protect a two-run lead in the top of the ninth inning, craziness followed.
The Yankees trailed by a run with runners on first and third, with one out and Teixeira at the plate.
He was just back in the lineup despite a sore calf. He grounded a Johnson sinker to Orioles second baseman Robert Andino, who flipped to shortstop J.J. Hardy for one out.
And then ...
Hardy fired to first baseman Mark Reynolds to complete the double play. Teixeira, his calf screaming, dived into first base.
First-base umpire Jerry Meals called him out. Television replays showed otherwise. But the game was over.
"It was as much of a playoff atmosphere as we've had all year," Hardy said.
Teixeira slammed his helmet to the ground and told Meals he'd missed the call. By then, the O's were on the field celebrating a share of first place.
When it ended, Girardi was forced to answer questions about Sabathia's health. Sabathia was hit hard, allowing five earned runs in 6 1/3 innings. Girardi said he's healthy, that he simply missed with a few pitches.
As for Meals, Teixeira said much more.
Yet the most lasting result of the game may be that Markakis, who'd suffered through six losing seasons and had long ago established himself as both a leader and a clutch performer, won't play for a while.
"It breaks my heart," Showalter said.
"I'll be here for the guys," he said. "I'll be supporting them."
In a nine-day stretch, the Orioles have won four of six games against the Yankees. In doing so, they've continued their magic carpet ride. They've also tightened the screws on the Yanks, who had a 10-game lead on July 18.
"It's only September 8th, and there's a lot of baseball to be played," O's starter Joe Saunders said. "But this was an amazing game."
Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.