It was a beautiful day for a ball game in Charm City for the middle match of the weekend series. Sunny, blue skies, a bit nippy, but a beautiful Saturday afternoon over all. And once again, things started right for the Yankees, and then at one point, they let it just slip away piece-by-piece.
Masahiro Tanaka was looking for a better outing than Opening Day earlier this week, and he got it. Though it was certainly not exactly a big 180, and nowhere near the Tanaka we saw in Spring Training. He threw 92 pitches in 5 innings, gave up 6 hits, 4 walks, and 3 runs, and struck out just 5 Baltimore batters. He really kept things under control until the 4th inning, when a lead-off walk stole 2nd, and then scored on a 2-out single. Then after loading the bases, he and Sanchez worked to get a fairly easy 3rd out at home to end the threat.
Tanaka got into more trouble in the 5th. With 2 runners on base and no outs, a double scored one runner and a walk loaded the bases. The next batter hit a dribbler up the middle and the Yankees’ infield worked towards a double play. But upon a challenge by Baltimore, it was just an out at 2nd, allowing the run to still score, and putting runners on the corners. Yet another walked loaded the bases before Tanaka got a much-needed strikeout and finally a pop-out to close out his time on the mound.
In the meantime, the Yankees’ offense was able to mount quite the dominance to ease Tanaka’s struggles a bit. In the 2nd, with 1 out, Headley walked and Hicks doubled to get on base and in scoring position. Ronald Torreyes singled home both runners, with Hicks’ sliding in just before the tag, but Torreyes was caught out at 2nd on the throw. Gardner then singled and stole 2nd, moving to 3rd on a throwing error, but was left stranded.
Then in the 5th, the Yankees’ padded their lead. Though not without a cost. As the lead-off batter, Gary Sanchez worked the count up, but then on one swing, he clearly felt too much pain. He was immediately pulled from the game (not good, more below) and replaced by Romine. Romine finished the at-bat by working a walk. Two outs later, Romine moved to 3rd on Ellsbury’s single. They would both move up on a much-argued (by Baltimore) balk, scoring another Yankees’ run. Ellsbury then scored on Starlin Castro’s single, which finished the day of the Baltimore starter.
Much like the Yankees’ had up until last night, the Orioles’ bullpen haven’t allowed a single run this season yet. And they continued their streak against the Yankees’ offense, unfortunately. Though they certainly had a few opportunities, it was simply that — “few”.
On the other side of things, the Yankees’ bullpen did a pretty good job with a single exception. Adam Warren kept things clean in the 6th and into the 7th before Tommy Layne’s lone batter hit a solid double in the 7th. Dellin Betances, however, had the messiest time on the mound. His first batter singled home the runner from 2nd to tie up the game. Then after an out, the runner stole 2nd and then scored on another single to give the Orioles the lead. That runner then was caught stealing to end the inning, originally called safe was overturned on a Yankees’ challenge and replay.
But the damage was done. Holder breezed through the 8th, but the Yankees were up against a strong O’s bullpen and couldn’t find any traction to make a late-inning comeback.
Final score: 5-4 Orioles.
Okay, bad news first: Greg Bird took a foul ball off his ankle last week in Clearwater (the final Spring game in Florida) and woke up this morning with it swollen and sore. But they don’t seem as concerned beyond just a lingering soreness and bad bruise, so he’s out for the rest of the weekend, holding out hope to be the 1st baseman come Monday’s home opener.
And now, Gary Sanchez was pulled from tonight’s game after feeling pain on a swing. After some initial testing at the stadium, he was diagnosed with a right bicep strain and will be headed to the 10-day DL and sent to New York for more tests and a better timetable.
Well, one more game in Baltimore tomorrow afternoon before the Yankees head home for their first homestand of the season. And hopefully, reverse their luck so far this season.