Tonight’s game in Baltimore was the first road game for the Yankees this season, and the Yankees made themselves known in a few pretty big ways. And it was wonderful.
Oh, if anyone’s wondering Baltimore hates both Alex Rodriguez (who played his first game at 3rd this season tonight, and looked like he was back at home there) and Baltimore-born Mark Teixeira (who they’ve hated since he signed with the Yankees rather than the Orioles in free agency back in 2009). Welcome to town, Yankees! They only boo you if you’re good. And there was a lot of booing tonight, followed by a lot of silence.
Starting the game was Michael Pineda, who threw a rather good game tonight against the Orioles. The Orioles have their share of power-hitters, which keeps them in the conversation for competition for the AL East. But Pineda seemed decent in spite of this, throwing 98 total pitches over 6.1 innings, giving up 9 hits, 5 runs, and no walks. But it was his 9 strikeouts that seemed to sparkle most.
First, Pineda found himself into a bit of a situation in the 2nd inning. The lead-off batter singled, advanced to 2nd on a ground out, and then scored on a double. Another double scored another run before 2 of those strikeouts got him out of the inning. On into the 6th, a lead-off double scored on a 2-out, 2-run homer. And in the 7th, Pineda allowed 2 singles and got his final strikeout before the Yankees went to their bullpen. With Pineda responsible for those runs, only 1 would score on a force out under reliever Dellin Betances.
Betances continued to have trouble with his pitching as he came on in relief of Pineda in the 7th. A single loaded the bases, which made the ground out easy to score a run. But then a walk kept those bases loaded before Betances was able to find just the right collection of pitches to get a strike out and get out of the jam. Betances continued into the 8th inning for an out before handing the ball off to fellow co-closer Andrew Miller who came in for 5 outs to finish off the Orioles. Miller kept the O’s away from the bases rather effectively, with 3 of those 5 outs being strikeouts.
Now, 5 runs should be a huge problem. But the Yankees were hitting slightly better tonight. In the 2nd inning, with 2 outs, Chris Young hit a long solo home run, and then in the 4th inning, Teixeira hit his own 2-out solo home run. Going into the 7th inning, the Yankees were down 4-2 to Baltimore, and the Orioles replaced their starter. Young singled, Murphy walked, a line out and a fly out put 2 outs on the board, and Ellsbury’s single loaded the bases. Then Stephen Drew steps into the batter’s box to pinch-hit for Brett Gardner (more in a moment) only to smack the ball over the right field wall for the Yankees’ first grand slam of the season.
Final score: 6-5 Yankees.
Now, why was the man of the game, Stephen Drew, in for Brett Gardner at that point in the game? Well, back in the 1st inning, with Gardner’s first at-bat, the Orioles’ starting pitcher plunked Gardner with an inside pitch right on his right forearm. Gardner took 1st, shaking off the stinging pain, but by the 7th inning, the arm was stiffening up. This sent Gardner for precautionary x-rays, which came back negative. (Yay!) Bruised a bit, stiff slightly, but nothing terrible or broken.
When Drew hit that grand slam, I might have gone supersonic with my own cheering, something I know I was joined by Yankee fans across the globe and the smattering of Yankee fans at Camden Yards in Baltimore. And when the Yankees got that final out in the 9th inning, we all celebrated and released the breath we weren’t aware we’d been holding (along with the players and coaches forming the victory line on the field). But Camden Yards went from idle chatter and that hum of anticipation to a near silence. It was weird.
Now, I’m used to “New York, New York” serenading fans as they exit and regroup after a game, both after a win and a loss. And I’m certainly not expecting Sinatra or a New York tribute song in Baltimore. But there was nothing. People in orange and black, shaking their heads in near disbelief, instead created an eerie anti-music feel. I read recently that “music is how we decorate time” (quote from Alex Clay Hutchings), and without it, it seems like a void, a vacancy. And never is that felt more than when we are used to something and are forced to hear the nothingness that the lack of music leaves in our lives, even if for but a moment.
Well then… “Start spreading the news…”, the Yankees won the game and started their long road trip on a good foot. And if you’re humming along with Sinatra in your head, congratulations. You’ve painted your time with something that means more than nothingness. Keep singing, keep the music going, and keep the winning coming!