What it means: That after a few false alarms, the Yankees' season is officially on the brink.
And that after splitting 22 games -- and having a run differential of just two runs, 103-101, in favor of the Yankees -- the Yankees and Baltimore Orioles will have to scratch and claw through nine more innings, at least, to determine which team goes to the ALCS.
After tonight's 2-1, 13-inning loss, the Yankees stand at the brink of elimination and must rely on their ace, CC Sabathia, to advance them to the next round against the Detroit Tigers. The Orioles will send out Game 1 starter Jason Hammel.
Crutch hitting: Once again, the Yankees could not come up with a timely hit, their only run scoring on a groundout by Robinson Cano in the sixth. And once again, their RISP numbers were atrocious -- 0-for-9 -- as are the batting averages of most of their regulars: Russell Martin .214, Ichiro Suzuki .200, Nick Swisher .133, Alex Rodriguez .125, Cano .111, and your big winner, Curtis Granderson at .063, with 9 K's in 16 at-bats. Only Derek Jeter (.421) and Mark Teixeira (.333) are not embarrassing themselves so far.
Phelps Phail: in his first postseason appearance, David Phelps took the loss, surrendering a leadoff double to Manny Machado and a one-out double by J.J. Hardy to knock in the winning run in the 13th.
Bad break: Joba Chamberlain, who pitched a 1-2-3 11th inning, had to leave the game after being hit solidly on his right elbow, the one on which he had Tommy John surgery in June 2011, by the barrel of Matt Wieters' bat, which broke in half on impact. The ball went into left field for a single, and Joba went to the clubhouse, his elbow visibly swollen by the impact. Joba was replaced by Phelps. X-rays were negative and Joba was said to have a contusion; will be re-evaluated on Friday.
Wonder-Phil: Phil Hughes gave the Yankees 6 2/3 strong innings, holding the O's to one run on four hits, despite walking the leadoff hitter in three different innings. But he repeatedly got out of trouble with strikeouts, mostly on his slider. Joe Girardi pulled him before facing Nate McLouth, who had already doubled and homered, with two out in the seventh.
Too much to ask: Yankee Stadium practically exploded when Girardi sent Raul Ibanez up to hit for Jayson Nix with the game tied and two out in the ninth. Unfortunately, Ibanez did not have three straight HRs in him; he grounded to first to send the game into extra innings.
No way to treat an ex-teammate: Orioles reliever Luis Ayala, a Yankee last year, slipped a 2-2 fastball past Jeter to end the seventh inning with runners on first and second. Jeter had a discussion with home-plate ump Fieldin Culbreth, to no avail; replays showed the pitch was indeed a strike.
Crazy eighth: The Yankees got singles out of Ichiro and Teixeira to start the eighth inning -- and, you guessed it, failed to score, with a big assist to the machinations of Buck Showalter, who used three pitchers to get through the inning. After replacing Ayala, who allowed both hits, Buck went to Brian Matusz, last night's goat, who got Cano to ground out. Then, he brought in sidewinding Darren O'Day, who struck out A-Rod (to thunderous boos) and got Swisher, having another horrendous postseason, to pop out to short right to run the night's RISP futility index to 0-for-9.
Nate the great: Orioles LF McLouth, already having a pretty good ALDS, had a walk and a double in his first two at-bats before homering into the RF seats leading off the fifth to give Baltimore a 1-0 lead. Once again, the longball victimizes Hughed -- he allowed 35 HRs in the regular season, second only to Ervin Santana in MLB.
Single-minded: A-Rod's fourth-inning single drew a roar from the crowd, which seemed to be sympathizing with the struggling third baseman after his benching late in Game 3. The hit raised A-Rod's postseason batting average from .083 to .154.
Where did our love go? The lovefest between A-Rod and the crowd ended abruptly when Showalter pulled Joe Saunders with a runner on second, two out and Rodriguez coming to bat. Alex struck out, late on a 98 mph fastball from Tommy Hunter, and trudged back to the dugout under a hail of boos. By the 13th, Girardi sent up Eric Chavez to hit for him. Chavez lined out to end the game.
Ixnay: Nix, playing shortstop in place of Jeter, led off the third with a double, but moved not an inch further as Saunders struck out Jeter, Ichiro and Teixeira.
Straight out of Brooklyn: And onto the mound at Yankee Stadium, Willie Randolph was tapped to throw out the ceremonial first pitch. He wound up and threw a strike to Ibanez, who seems to be everywhere these days.
RIP: Before the game, a moment of silence was observed for Jerry Girardi, the father of the Yankees manager, who passed away at age 81 on Saturday.
What's next: Game 5, Sabathia (15-6, 3.38) vs. Hammel (8-6, 3.43) in a 5:07 p.m. start, for all the marbles.