When April came to a close with the Orioles playing good baseball, the prevailing thought was, "Let's see where they stand after facing teams that are actually good." With fifteen straight games against the Yankees, Red Sox, Rangers, and Rays before they finally face another bad team, the immediate future looked pretty tough. Well, we're only three games into that fifteen game stretch, but the Orioles just played the Yankees like equals. Nay, they outplayed the Yankees. They out-pitched them, they out-hit them, they even out-defended them (and for the Orioles, that is saying something). Even the loss in this series featured great pitching to ease the pain.
On Monday, Jason Hammel pitched six innings, giving up two runs. On Tuesday, Brian Matusz pitched 6 1/3 innings, giving up one run. And today, Jake Arrieta said, "You think you've seen good pitching in this series? I'll show you good pitching," and went on to have the best start in his major-league career. Jake completely dominated the Yankees, throwing eight innings of shutout baseball in which he struck out nine (eight swinging) and walked none. He gave up five hits, all singles, none in the same inning. No Yankee ever got past first base. It was simply beautiful to watch. At the beginning of the night, Arrieta's ERA was 4.45. After eight innings, 3.52. Jake was still going strong in the eighth, retiring the side in order with two strikeouts. But with 111 pitches in a game the Orioles had well in hand on a chilly May night, Buck Showalter pulled him. It would have been exciting to see Jake finish the game, but no biggie.
Arrieta's counterpart on the Yankees, Ivan Nova, didn't have quite so good a night, and I'm happy to say that the Orioles finally gave him a loss on his record, his first since June 3, 2011. After a botched first inning by the Orioles that saw them put runners on second and third with one out, then load the bases with two outs, and then not scoring, it felt like maybe the Orioles missed their big chance. But after shutting them down for a few innings, the wheels began to fall off for Nova.
Matt Wieters, who loves to hit against the Yankees, led off the fourth inning for the Orioles. Nova threw him two balls, then Wieters smoked a change up into the right field stands for his seventh home run of the year. Well done, Matty! That gave the Orioles a 1-0 lead, all they'd need on the night. The Orioles put two more baserunners on in the inning thanks a double by Nick Johnson and a Robert Andino single, but Nova retired the two black holes in the lineup, Mark Reynolds and Endy Chavez, to avoid further damage.
J.J. Hardy, who finally looks to be heating up at the plate, doubled to lead off the fifth inning but was stranded, another missed opportunity in a one-run game. But they got right back to action in the sixth inning. With Chris Davis and Reynolds on the corners, both via walk, Andino hit a ball to Derek Jeter's right. It wasn't very hard hit, and you know, it was Jeter, so Andino was safe. Davis scored from third to make the score 2-0. Poor Chavez came to the plate and hit maybe the hardest ball he's hit all year. Unfortunately it went right to the third baseman who easily doubled up Andino at first. That was just rotten luck for Endy.
Not content with a two-run lead, Nick Markakis joined in the fun in the seventh inning, hitting his third home run of the year. Nova was really losing it at this point, and with his first pitch of the next at bat he hit Adam Jones on the elbow. Jonesy looked to be in pain, but he rubbed some dirt on it and was ready to race home on Wieters' double to center field. Chris Davis struck out, then the smoking hot Nick Johnson had his second hit of the game to knock in Wieters. That made the score 5-0, which is where it would remain.
With a five-run lead and a brilliant outing by Jake Arrieta behind them, Jim Johnson came on to pitch the ninth inning for the Orioles. It wasn't a save situation, but Johnson hasn't pitched much since his bout with food poisoning, so it was a nice tune up going into the series with Boston this weekend. JJ looked a little rusty at first, throwing three balls to Curtis Granderson, but got it together and retired the side in order to secure with win for the Orioles.
With the win the Orioles took the series from the Yankees easily, outscoring them 13-3 in the three games. They are now 16-9 on the season, the third best record in the American League behind the Rays and Rangers, both of whom are 17-8.