Fireworks and champagne in Cincinnati. A September classic in the Bronx. For the Orioles another --- what else? --- extra-inning win. A dramatic comeback by the world champs at Wrigley Field. Yes, it was another wild September day in baseball.
1. Revenge of the old dudes
Before Raul Ibanez's jaw-dropping 13th-inning home run, before the strange, ridiculous, and thrilling 14-inning, 5-hour, 43-minute epic in the Bronx, there was Jim Thome, that old warrior, lumbering to the plate at Fenway Park with the Orioles-Red Sox game tied in the 12th inning. Thome, 0-for-5 with two strikeouts on the day at that moment, faced a 2-1 count from Alfredo Aceves, and drilled an 89 mph fastball to right field, a shot that one-hopped into the stands for a ground rule double and scored Adam Jones to give Baltimore the lead for good. The Orioles' 9-6 win over the Red Sox was the team's 16th-straight extra-inning win --- that win streak is the longest in the majors since the Cleveland Indians won 17 straight in 1949. As the Orioles added to their lead in the 12th and the Red Sox faithful filed out of the ballpark, you could hear chants of "Let's Go O's!" in the stands at Fenway. That strange Orioles magic continues, thanks to Baltimore's unlikely 42-year-old hero.
For a moment on Saturday, it looked as if the Orioles would begin Sunday atop the AL East with the Yankees: when Raul Ibanez, the team's 40-year-old outfielder, stepped up to the plate in the bottom of the 13th as a misty rain fell at Yankee Stadium, the Yankees were down 9-7 after a wild pitch and a sacrifice fly cut into the A's four-run lead to begin the inning. Facing a 3-1 count against Pat Neshek, Ibanez, who had homered in the fifth as a pinch-hitter, got a sinker that didn't sink, and he ripped the ball into the right-field stands. The Yankees would go on to win in ridiculous fashion in the 14th, with Oakland first baseman Brandon Moss booting an Eduardo Nunez ground ball with the bases loaded --- but Ibanez's homer was the biggest hit of the day.
Two old warriors, two big hits. Everywhere on Saturday, the old guys seemed to be getting the job done. Before there was Ibanez with his improbable home run, there was Ichiro, with a first-inning home run --- the 38-year-old leftfielder, who's rediscovered his mojo in Gotham, now has now five HRs in 56 games with Yankees after hitting just four in 95 games with Mariners this year. The 38-year-old, who now has 14 hits in his last 20 at-bats, is so hot that the A's intentionally walked him with a runner on second and one out in the 14th to get to Alex Rodriguez.
After all the madness on Saturday, after 27 innings of epic baseball, we were back where we started when the day began: the Yankees leading the Orioles by a game in the AL East.