Written by Mike Laws
Or, How the Yankees Leapfrogged the Orioles, Who Are Now Perilously Close to Fourth Place
Orioles 4, New York Yankees 5
Quite a turnaround from six days ago, innit? Take a little stroll with me back to those halcyon days of last weekend, when it seemed the Orioles could do no wrong against the visiting Yanks. Down three early and up against the ace-of-staff they’ve virtually never hit well? No problem! Here’s our rookie pitcher, playing mop-up man — he’ll hold it down while we mount the unlikely comeback, and go on to win 4-3. Uh-oh, up against Hiroki Kuroda on the first ESPN Sunday-night game at Camden Yards since, like, 1998? No problem! How’s a homer in each of the first three innings suit ya? Hell, we’ll even toss in a scoreless ninth from the otherwise-embattled Baltimore closer! Ain’t no thang!
A week later and the best thing you can say about the middle game of three at Yankee Stadium is that we didn’t have to see (or not see) said closer, and hence were spared another day of hand-wringing about final-inning lead-preserving strategery. And yes, I know that’s not really a word. And no, I don’t think this is much of a silver lining at all. Worse than the reversal-of-fortunes itself is the speed with which it arrived; mere days after (ostensibly) leaving the Yankees in their dust, the Orioles now sit a half-game back — and just a half-game ahead of the fourth-place Tampa Bay Rays.
The situation is depressing enough that I don’t really think the particulars of game two bear much repeating — after all, the game was on Fox (proving, if nothing else, that national coverage isn’t always so hunky-dory). But here it goes anyway, warp-speed style, so as to minimize the pain: The O’s jumped out to a 3-0 lead after their first two turns at the dish, the product of a first-inning two-run blast to dead center from Chris Davis (meaning Crush has now equaled his homer total from last year — before the All-Star break — and is fast approaching Miguel Cabrera’s league lead in RBIs) and, in the second, a one-run double from offensive powerhouse Alexi Casilla. The Bombers threatened in their half, loading the bases against Chris Tillman before the right-hander had recorded an out — actually they did more than threaten, plating a run on a single looped just over third, meaning the bases were still loaded for Luis Cruz, still with no one down, and Cruz stroked a fly into the gap in left-center, easily deep enough to bring in the second New York run, though the excellent plant-and-throw from Nolan Reimold cut down the runner tagging from second, Lyle Overbay, meaning the defense had just contributed a rally-killing 7-5 double play, after which Tillman struck Chris Stewart out looking. Nice! And don’t look now but in the fourth it was Taylor Teagarden chipping in with a two-out insurance-run RBI single. Doubly nice! But uh-oh, in the fifth the Yanks got back-to-back singles (that Murderers’ Row of Eduardo Nunez and Stewart) and a sac-bunt from Brett Gardner to move both into scoring position for Ichiro, who came through with one of his infield singles, which of course are even peskier than the balls he hits hard against the Orioles, of which there have also been far too many, over the years, for this reporter’s liking. That scored Nunez, drawing the home team closer, at 4-3. Then of course Robinson Cano singled. Tie ballgame. Then of course in the sixth the New Yorkers struck again, in similar fashion, with the evidently red-hot Overbay singling and getting moved over by Cruz and then Nunez delivering with the go-ahead RBI single.
So it would appear that what we’ve now got is pretty much the polar opposite of last weekend: a series where whatever can go wrong, will. Brian Matusz relieved Tillman, in that sixth. He did fine. Kevin Gausman relieved Matusz. He looked even better. But the Bird-bats were done. There was to be no late-inning magic this time around. Shawn Kelley relieved Andy Pettitte, came up with a big strikeout of Machado to end a seventh-inning threat (Casilla leading off with a single and swiping second — the latest Oriole leadoff man to reach and but then get stranded out there). David Robertson relieved Kelley for the eighth, gave up a leadoff single to Adam Jones, rang Davis up, got a double play off the bat of Brian Roberts to retire the side. Mariano Rivera came on and gave up a two-out pinch-hit single to Ryan Flaherty, keeping things alive precisely long enough to strike out the next pinch hitter, Chris Dickerson, on three pitches. Game over. Sweep-prevention time, tomorrow. Sad in Birdland. Signing off.
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