Bouncing Back- Orioles Beat Yankees 5 to 3 on 4/13
Written by Mike Laws
Quality start from Hammel, long balls and RBI groundouts add up to victory in the Bronx
Orioles 5, Yankees 3
New York Yankees
Far be it from me to kvetch about an Oriole win, particularly an Oriole win against the dastardly division-rival New York Yankees, but seriously, can we blow somebody out already? Through the first eleven games of the year the Birds haven’t won or lost by a margin greater than four (and that only once, in the Chris Davis grand-slam game).
Well, anyway, just a quibbling little plea. On to the bullet points!
- The reason for the above bellyaching concerns what Baltimore batsmen did today to Phil Ewes — I’m sorry, I mean Phil Hughes. Yes. Anyway, a look at his final line would be somewhat deceptive; while the Orioles did score all five of their runs against the Yankee spot-starter (he filled in for a spasmodic Andy Pettitte), and while it’s also true that the Birds plated at least a run in every inning Hughes worked, they also settled for a kind of bare-minimum against a batting-practice-quality start. A first inning in which Nate McLouth led off with a double and five more Oriole hitters came to the dish produced the one run, that on an RBI fielder’s-choice groundout by Adam Jones. Ryan Flaherty homered in the second, followed by a two-out single from McLouth and a rocket-shot the other way off the bat of Manny Machado, which narrowly missed leaving the glorified softball diamond that is Yankee Stadium’s right-field corner, smacking off the top of the wall to be played on a hop by Ichiro — who gunned the ball back in for a relay to the plate that beat McLouth by, oh, about a furlong. The Orioles would push two across in the third, arguably their biggest opportunity to really unleash against Hughes — Nick Markakis led off with a homer, followed by Jones with a single and Davis with a double — but ultimately settled for another RBI groundout, this time from J.J. Hardy. And in the fourth, following another leadoff dinger courtesy of Nolan Reimold, the Orioles would chase Hughes from the game by way of another McLouth double — after which, though McLouth advanced to third on a groundout, the Birds would strand him there as reliever David Phelps whiffed both Markakis and Jones …
- … Which would be a bellwether or telltale performance, for Phelps. The right-hander didn’t just hold the Orioles at bay, over what would be four innings of stellar relief; he absolutely mowed them down, giving up only one hit — a single that Jones attempted, unsuccessfully, to stretch into a double — and limiting any other hiccups to a sixth inning in which he hit Flaherty to lead things off (though the foot Flaherty got plunked on may or may not have been outsider the batter’s box), then threw the ball away attempting to pick Flaherty off first. In any event, he got out of that one, too, with the Baltimore bats having by this point fallen totally silent …
- … And so of course my point is that it fell to the pitching and defense to protect the not-insignificant-but-certainly-not-as-massive-as-it-could’ve-been lead. And pace a pair of solo shots from Travis Hafner and Vernon Wells (which, what is this, MLB 2K5?), O’s starter Jason Hammel was up to the challenge — though the defense behind him faltered early on in a way that surely inspired no shortage of angst among the Oriole faithful. After cruising through the first and despite yielding Hafner’s homer to lead off the second, making it 2-1 O’s, Hammel looked poised and in terrific command, hitting his spots with both the four- and the two-seam fastball and mixing in a goodly percentage of off-speed stuff to keep the opposition offense off-balance. Even the home-run ball to Hafner was a decent offering, a fastball low in the zone; it’s just that the man they call Pronk must’ve been sitting dead-red. In any case, Hammel, apparently unfazed, rebounded to ring up Wells and induce groundballs from both Ichiro and Francisco Cervelli (his M.O., when Hammel’s “on”) — it’s just that the normally sure-handed Hardy delivered just a godawful throw to first on the Cervelli bouncer, which eluded first baseman Davis, which permitted Cervelli to take second, and kept the inning alive for Lyle Overbay, who singled to left-center, momentarily tying this thing up …
- … But despite what seemed their early best efforts to get in their own way, the Birds eventually settled in behind Hammel’s hands-down best performance of the year thus far, refusing to succumb even in the sixth, when the Yankees threatened with men on first and second and a run already in (Wells’s homer) and only one out; Hammel bore down and came up with a huge strikeout following a prolonged at-bat by Overbay, then popped Jayson Nix up to retire the side. And from there it was the bullpen’s turn, with Brian Matusz working around a leadoff Brett Gardner bunt single in the seventh, Darren O’Day working around singles from Ichiro and Overbay in the eighth, and Jim Johnson absolutely slamming the door shut in the ninth …
… WHICH, ABOUT THAT: Johnson certainly confirmed, in last year’s divisional series against the hated Bombers, that Yankee Stadium is the toughest place in baseball to record a game’s final three outs (he also confirmed that even away from their friendly confines, the Yanks tend to be pretty averse to going down quietly in their half of the ninth). But in this one, even staring down the daunting task of having to face the top of the New York order, Johnson didn’t flinch. He got Gardner, on the second pitch of the at-bat, to tap out meekly between the pitcher’s mound and first base. He bounced Cano out to second on one pitch. And while by comparison his three pitches against red-hot Kevin Youkilis constituted a trying ordeal, Johnson would go on to record yet another ground-ball out, this one a hopper to Machado at third. That’s six pitches, and probably not even a sweat broken, not even in Yankee Stadium, not even in the bottom of the ninth. Rubber match tomorrow, hon’.
Visit the Orioles Hangout Message Board