Dropping the ball - Yankees 5 Orioles 2
Written by Mike Laws
Well, fluky plays giveth and fluky plays taketh away, I guess. After a top half of the seventh at Yankee Stadium in which the Orioles took advantage of (a) a rare Kevin Youkilis error on a routine grounder off the bat of Matt Wieters and (b) a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it CC Sabathia balk that advanced Wieters to second, allowing him to tie the game on a single through the middle from J.J. Hardy, the New Yorkers invoked some black magic of their own. With the bases full and two down, Vernon Wells drove a long fly ball over the head of Adam Jones, who nonetheless tracked the ball down on a dead run to deep center — and couldn’t hold on to it. His glove was up. His obligatory bubble-gum bubble puffed up. He was in position. And the ball journeyed into and out of his glove and fell onto the warning track, allowing all three baserunners to score easily.
And that wasn’t the end of it, neither … but we’ll get to that …
Sigh. On to the bullet points:
- Right, fluky plays. So after the Jones debacle in center, the ever-resilient O’s looked poised to strike again, in the eighth. After a long night of looking largely (and typically) hapless against Sabathia, Alexi Casilla legged out an infield single on a ball deep in the hole between short and third. Nick Markakis, as he is wont to do, went with a Sabathia fastball on the outer half, slapping the ball to left for another hit. And when the heating-up Manny Machado worked the count full, you thought maybe, just maybe, the Orioles could, at the very least, cut into the three-run Yankee lead …
- What happened next is deeply painful to relive. But here goes. Machado reached for a pitch off the plate outside and high (read: swung at ball four), sending a hard-hit one-hopper out to Robinson Cano at second. Cano flipped to shortstop Jayson Nix for the force — and Nix, alertly, pivoted not toward first to complete the traditional 4-6-3 double play, but instead toward third, hanging up Casilla in a rundown. Nix and Youkilis tossed back and forth, with the latter eventually tagging Casilla out — and then (ugh) Youkilis noticed or had it pointed out to him that Machado, for some reason, in a game in which his team trailed by three, was trying to take second. Youkilis threw behind the youngster (and boy, did he look green on this play); first baseman Lyle Overbay threw to Cano, who applied the tag on the sliding Machado. For those of you following along at home, that’s a 4-6-5-6-5-3-4 triple play. (I’m going strictly by memory here, by the way, and it’s a memory I’m not eager to dwell on at further length, so if I got that wrong, well, whatever.)
- But I don’t want to be too hard on Machado, who, after all — along with Chris Davis and, um, Casilla (who also doubled off Sabathia in this one) — was one of only a couple O’s to do much of anything off the plus-size Yankee hurler. In fact, Machado keyed what little offense the Orioles could muster in this one, and did it the right way (literally), punching a grounder through a wide-open hole between first and second, plating a run in the Oriole third …
- … which was all that happened for a long, long time, offensively. Following the Machado RBI single in the third, the Orioles had the following to show for their effort against Sabathia: a 1-4-3 GIDP from Jones; five consecutive strikeouts; and finally, after Machado reached on an infield single that actually struck Sabathia, another 1-4-3 GIDP off the bat of Jones (so, like, not a banner night for the Oriole center fielder).
- All of which was sad, because starter Miguel Gonzalez, who admittedly didn’t have the best stuff or command of his life, had nonetheless kept his club in it, working out of several jams completely unscathed and limiting the damage when the Yanks did touch him up for the two (earned) runs they’d get off him. Still, Gonzalez’s lack of command proved his undoing, and in some ways justifies his taking a loss that would wind up coming by way of an unearned run. He walked Brett Gardner in the third; Gardner scored following a pair of singles. He walked Francisco Cervelli in the fifth; Cervelli scored following a sacrifice bunt and a single from Cano. And in that nightmare seventh, Gonzalez again walked leadoff man Cervelli, before being lifted in favor of Troy Patton (who walked Youkilis intentionally and hit Travis Hafner on a 3-2 pitch). Patton gave way to Pedro Strop for the pivotal Wells at-bat; and while the ball to Jones should’ve been caught, and went for an error, note who scored: Cervelli, Youkilis and Hafner, none of whom reached base by way of a hit. Telling, that.
EVEN SPOOKIER: As if the baseball gods wanted to foreshadow the weird juju to come, Youkilis — who’d figure prominently in the triple play in the eighth — had been hung up on the base paths earlier in similarly perplexing fashion. Following an RBI liner into left that also advanced Cano to third, the ex-Red Sock was apparently stricken by some kind of momentary lapse of consciousness, caught in a kind of baseball K-hole or something: He stood a few paces off first base as the throw from the outfield came in to Casilla, who did a double- or possibly triple-take before finally throwing over, behind Youkilis (who may have thought Casilla had actually already thrown behind him, and he was already hung up and shouldn’t go back to first. If that makes any sense.). The play went for the second out of the inning, and the Yanks would proceed to strand Cano at third, keeping this game tied at 1 and Gonzalez away from serious jeopardy, at least at that point …
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