It was an improbable winning streak that I think would be best compared to winning a coin toss 17 times in a row. It just doesn't seem possible, but the Baltimore Orioles accomplished it by winning 16 consecutive extra inning games to close out their wild card clinching 2012 campaign and adding another on Matt Wieters’ walkoff grand slam against the Rays on April 18.
Seventeen coin flips in a row. Or at least baseball's version of a coin flip.
Of course the odds had to catch up with Baltimore eventually. Four games short of tying the Pittsburgh Pirates record of 21 consecutive extra inning wins set back in 1959-60, they finally did as the Orioles fell 6-5 to the Toronto Blue Jays in 11 innings on Wednesday afternoon.
The manner in which they ultimately lost was equal parts astonishing and head-scratching. Orioles closer Jim Johnson retired the first two batters in the deciding 11th inning before allowing singles to J.P. Arencibia and Munenori Kawaski. He then plunked Brett Lawrie to load the bases and walked No. 9 hitter Maicer Izturis on four pitches to plate the winning run.
''I just had a hard time throwing a strike,'' Johnson said. ''Kind of lost feel, and obviously that's a terrible way to lose a game.''
But before that had a chance to happen, Baltimore nearly plated the winner in the home half of the 10th on J.J. Hardy’s two-out single. Off the bat and upon landing it seemed the Orioles streak was safe. With two outs, runner Manny Machado was off second base on contact and hit third just as Toronto left fielder Rajai Davis picked the ball on one waist level hop. What followed was a quick exchange from glove to hand and one sensational, on-the-fly and on-the-money, throw that allowed Arrencibia to catch and tag Machado in one motion.
It was flawless execution every step of the way, and it just goes to show how a single play can so drastically change an outcome, which in turn shows how difficult it is to win a single extra inning game, let alone 17 in succession. Whether it's a superb defensive play, a missed call, or even a one pitch lapse of concentration, it doesn't take much for a game to go south in extras. But as is life baseball, regardless outcome, you just have to move on to the next one. And like manager Buck Showalter, I wouldn't anticipate any negative carry over for his squad.
''It's not something I dwell on,'' Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. ''I know our guys don't. But I understand how it's noteworthy.''
It certainly is, and since it's our job to acknowledge it out, our hats are off to the Orioles for defying the odds for so long.
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