Pitching was the name of the game tonight as the starters Jason Hammel and Hiroki Kuroda combined to allow just three runs over thirteen combined innings, and the two bullpens who together allowed just one single in four combined innings. It was a game that could have gone either way, and on this night the Yankees got the breaks.
Before I go into the recap of the game, I realize that it's frustrating to lose a game that was so close to being winnable. It makes the mistakes and missed opportunities more magnified, certainly, but also it means that the Orioles were playing at the Yankees level. They're now 0-4 in games against the Yankees, but three of those games the Orioles were in. Are the Yankees a better team than them? Yes. But it's closer than it is most years.
So, the game. After going down in order in the the top of the first inning (although two of the outs were liners hit right to left field), the Orioles got something started in the top of the second. Adam Jones led off with a walk, and then Matt Wieters smoked a ball to right field. It hit off the wall and while Jones made it to third, Wieters was left at first. Chris Davis then hit a ball to left field that looked like it might go out for a homer, but instead it was a warning track sacrifice fly that gave the O's a 1-0 lead. That'd be all they got as Wilson Betemit grounded into a double play to end the inning. That was the only excitement the Orioles would have offensively until the seventh inning.
Jason Hammel was again fantastic, pitching 6 innings and allowing just two runs, both of which came on one swing of the bat in the second inning. Mark Teixeira started the second inning with a ball up the first base side that Balkin' Bob Davidson called fair. On replay it was clearly foul and although Buck Showalter came out to argue, it was to no avail. That put a runner on for Eric Chavez, who belted a home run to right-center field and gave the Yankees a 2-1 lead.
Hammel cruised through the next three innings, allowing just two baserunners; one on a walk, one on a single. He got into a little bit of trouble in the sixth, but a well timed double play ball kept any more runs from scoring. He finished the night with 101 pitches thrown. It seemed like a premature exit to me, but the bullpen was so great that it ended up not mattering.
After floundering through the middle innings, the Orioles offense got a chance in the seventh inning and blew it soundly. Nick Markakis singled and moved to second on a long fly ball out from Adam Jones. Kuroda then hit Wieters and both runners moved up on a wild pitch. Chris Davis then came to the plate and struck out on an absolutely ridiculous pitch in the dirt, and with Betemit at the plate Kuroda threw another wild pitch. Markakis raced home but the ball died in the grass and didn't go nearly as far from the plate as it looked it would. Russell Martin threw the ball to Kuroda covering and Markakis was out easily.
With both starters out of the game the bullpen took over. Matt Lindstrom and Jim Johnson each threw one perfect inning for the Orioles, and on the Yankees side, David Robertson was filthy, striking out the side in the 8th. Mariano Rivera came in for the save and worked around a one-out single by J.J. Hardy to end the game.
It was a tough loss all around, but I continue to be encouraged by the pitching. Tomorrow Brian Matusz faces off against Phil Hughes and there is no telling what will happen.