All week long it was thought that Kevin Gausman would start tonight's baseball game. He had been called up and was sitting in the bullpen all week. It just made sense. You don't call up your top pitching prospect to let him rot in the pen. But last night, Buck Showalter shocked the world with his announcement that it would be T.J. McFarland instead of Gausman. It was explained by writers (including by Mark and me on our podcast) that the rationale must be the fact that the Yankees have been putrid against lefties this season and McFarland is left handed. So the question was, are the Yankees so bad at hitting lefties that they would even roll over against a pitcher such as McFarland?
The answer, we learned, was no. McFarland got knocked around from the get go. He gave up a run on two hits in the first inning and struggled through a scoreless second before it really fell apart in the third inning. Back-to-back singles by Jayson Nix and Robinson Cano put runners on the corners for Vernon Wells. Wells has been pretty awful late, but he still singled back up the middle to knock in Nix and make the score 2-0.
McFarland bounced back to strike out Ichiro, and a force out by Zoilo Almonte put runners on the corners with two outs. All McFarland needed to go was retire Chris Stewart, but he wasn't able. Stewart lifted a fly ball to center field that was too shallow for Adam Jones to catch and Cano came in to score. It was a cheap hit, but it was all she wrote for McFarland. Buck Showalter came to the mound and replaced him with the guy we all thought would start tonight: Kevin Gausman. Gausman struck out David Adams to end the inning and it was just the start of a very good night for the rookie.
But first, I suppose we should talk about the O's offense through the first five innings. Are you ready? They were no hit and the only runner was Alexi Casila, who reached on an error in the third inning. CC Sabathia was rolling, as CC tends to do. And the O's bats were quiet for the first part of the game, as has been their way of late. It looked like the 3-0 lead would be more than enough for the Yankees to cruise to victory.
Speaking of cruising, Gausman looked great pitching the fourth, fifth, and sixth innings. He faced eleven batters in the three innings, allowing just two singles. He did just what the Orioles needed from him, which was hold the Yankees offense down in hopes that the O's bats would wake up. They did.
Nate McLouth led off the bottom of the sixth and lined a ball back up the middle. Finally! This was the night the O's would be no hit. I could feel it. I was wrong, happily. Alexi Casilla was up next and he hit a ball back towards Sabathia. Sabathia fielded but there was no one covering first base! I love when that happens.
After Nick Markakis popped up for the first out, young Manny Machado stepped to the plate. The world leader in doubles did it again, hitting a liner between the center and right fielders. Both runners scored and Manny stood on second, the tying run. J.J. Hardy hit a fly ball to center field. It was deep, but not super deep. Manny made the gutsy decision to tag up and go to third. The throw wasn't particularly close, but it was still a risky play. Some Orioles fans probably didn't like it. They probably thought Manny was already in scoring position so why risk the out? I'll tell you why. In case what happened next is what happens next.
Adam Jones stepped to the plate with two outs and the tying run on third. He worked the count full and then Sabathia threw a fastball that Jones chopped to the right side of the infield. Sabathia fielded, spun, and threw....nowhere near first base. Jones was safe, Machado scored, and the game was tied! That was all they would get as Chris Davis struck out to end the inning, his third K of the night.
With the game now tied, Gausman came back out for the seventh inning. There was a scary moment with the first batter when Nix hit a ball back up the middle that ricocheted off of Gausman's hip. Machado alertly got the out on the deflection, but the trainers came out to make sure Goose was all right. He was.
Next up was Cano, who hit a groundball against the shift for a single. But Gausman wasn't phased and got the next two hitters easily. His final line on the night was 4 ⅓ IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 4 K.
McLouth, who had broken up the no hitter in the previous inning, did one better in the seventh. He broke the tie with a home run to right field. It was a moon shot, and it was beautiful. The 40,000 plus crowd (that was definitely pro-Orioles) erupted in the stands. The O's were up 4-3. But could they hold it?
Tommy Hunter came in and pitched the final two innings of the game and he was outstanding. He pitched an easy eighth inning and then came back for the ninth even though it was a save situation. That proved to be a great decision as Hunter struck out the first two batters and the got the dangerous Cano to ground out to third base to end the game.
O's win! They take the first game of the series and put another game between themselves and the third place Yankees.