Game 161: BAL vs. NYY — Spoil sport, much like Maris

It’s hard to believe the season’s almost over. The Yankees certainly embraced their role as spoiler for the Orioles in their attempt to secure a spot in the Wild Card game next week. But it wasn’t exactly clear-cut, at least at first.

Luis Severino started this afternoon’s middle game of the series and kind of struggled his way through his 3.2 innings, gave up 5 hits, 2 walks, and 3 runs, striking out 3 batters. If you’re thinking Severino was a better long-term reliever, I think I’m with you on that. But the Yankees needed a starter today, with Tanaka being somewhat out of commission and not ready for the game today.

In the 2nd, the Orioles’ lead-off batter hit a ground-rule double to get on base. And then a walk and 2 outs later, the runners were in scoring position, which they did on a big 2-run single to get the O’s on the board early. A 2-out solo home run in the 3rd gave the Orioles their third and final run of the night.

Holder came on to relieve Severino for the last out of the 4th and to pitch through the 5th, which he started momentum for the bullpen to follow through the night — keeping the Orioles from adding to their score for the rest of the day. Bleier and Yates pitched through the 6th and 7th innings, each still giving up a walk and a single, but still keeping the Baltimore offense from crossing the plate.

Now, it was an early lead in today’s game, where the Yankees just didn’t seem to score runs at all for the first half of the game and the Orioles’ starter kept the Yankees offense to just 2 hits. But the Yankees started to chip away at the Orioles’ lead, bit by bit.

In the 5th, Teixeira led-off with a single and was replaced by Refsnyder as his pinch-runner. Headley worked a walk, and then Romine hit into a ground out where the play went to get Refsnyder out at 3rd. When Tyler Austin singled, Headley scored. And the chipping away began.

With 2 outs and 2 runners on base with singles in the 6th, Chase Headley doubled to score the lead runner, putting the Yankees within 1 run of the Orioles’ lead. Tyler Austin’s big lead-off home run in the 7th tied up the game. The Yankees were poised to do what they set out to do this series — spoil things for the Orioles.

Tyler Clippard breezed his way through the Baltimore batters in a 9-pitch 8th inning, setting himself up for the eventual win as the bottom of the 8th saw the Yankee offense charging forward. With 1 out, Ellsbury worked a walk and Headley doubled to put them in scoring position. So Austin Romine’s single scored both runners to break the tie. Then with another out, Torreyes on base with a walk, and a new O’s pitcher, Brett Gardner doubled home both runners to give the Yankees a healthy lead over the Orioles.

The Yankees turned things over to Dellin Betances who needed a strong outing to get himself back on track. While he did give up a lead-off single, Betances powered through and got three straight strikeouts to hand the Yankees the win today.

Final score: 7-3 Yankees.

Today was Roger Maris bobblehead day at Yankee Stadium to honor the great Yankees’ hitter’s famous milestone season. It was on this day 55 years ago that Roger Maris beat Mickey Mantle (much to the chagrin of Mantle’s loyal fanbase) to hit 61 home runs in a single season, beating Babe Ruth’s home run record. On hand for today’s pre-game festivities were Maris’ 4 sons Roger Jr., Kevin, Randy, and Richard, all sporting pinstriped jerseys with their father’s #9 on their backs. They threw out the ceremonial first pitch and drew a “61” in the pitcher’s mound dirt to honor their father’s milestone.

Maris played 7 seasons of his 12-year career with the Yankees (1960-1966), but they were by far his best years and left a lasting impact on the Yankee organization and fans everywhere. Maris’ life was cut short after a diagnosis with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He died in 1985 at age 51. But his legacy lives on in Monument Park and in the hearts of Yankee fans.

Worth noting, Maris has not been elected to the Hall of Fame, despite certainly having some noteworthy statistics and honors, and would have to be elected via the special Golden Era Committee (formerly known as the Veterans’ Committee). Maybe it’s time to reevaluate this oversight.

Go Yankees!

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