Before Friday, Miguel Gonzalez had a track record at Yankee Stadium where he seemed to kick it into an extra gear for all of the big games. Regular season and playoffs, he had been very good. The Orioles needed another great effort to try to claw their way back into the wild card race. What they got instead was a disastrous fifth inning that saw their hopes sink farther into quicksand as they fell, 8-5, to the Yankees on Friday night.
It's been the sixth inning that has been the disaster inning for the O's pitchers for most of the year. Gonzalez would have liked to make it to the fifth inning. He cruised through four innings and his hitters handed him a slim lead in the top of the fifth on the strength of a two-run home run by Danny Valencia and an RBI single by Manny Machado.
This set the O's up with a 4-2 lead, with the Yankees getting their runs on a blast by Alfonso Soriano, his 12th since being traded to New York. Perhaps that Soriano home run was the precursor to the doom to come for Gonzalez, because it was hanging off-speed pitches that did him in all night.
Gonzalez came out for the fifth inning, faced six batters, and retired none of them. He gave up four extra-base hits in a row, with three runs scoring and the lead vanishing just as fast. Mark Reynolds (yes, him, sigh) doubled home Curtis Granderson. Ichiro Suzuki mashed another hanging off-speed pitch into the right field seats, putting the O's in a 5-4 hole. He then proceeded to load the bases on a double by rookie catcher Austin Romine, a single by Brett Gardner, and a walk to Derek Jeter.
That was the end of the night for Gonzalez, who ended up surrendering seven runs on six hits and three walks in only four innings pitched. He had two runs charged to him that were inherited by T.J. McFarland and scored on a single by Robinson Cano. This gave the Yankees seven runs and it proved to be all that they would need on the night.
On the whole, when you score five runs, you should win. The Orioles scored runs off CC Sabathia, who did not exactly have a good night either, giving up five runs in 5.2 innings. They did damage to him with some timely hitting, including a 4-10 with runners in scoring position. How many games have there been where the O's couldn't buy even one hit with RISP? Tonight they had four and it ultimately did not matter.
The O's did not do any damage at all to a parade of Yankees relievers that included Shawn Kelley, Boone Logan, David Robertson, and Mariano Rivera. The Yankees closer picked up his 39th save of the season.
Gonzalez took the loss to drop to 8-7 on the season. Sabathia was given the win, raising his record to 12-11 in spite of a 4.91 ERA. Run support is ridiculous.
Machado, Nick Markakis, and Valencia all had multi-hit games, with Markakis recording three singles, as he does. Chris Davis picked up his 122nd RBI of the season on a fourth-inning single, giving him a chance of holding the lead in the AL at the end of the season if Miguel Cabrera misses significant time due to the abdominal injury that has knocked him out of games early on back-to-back nights.
As McFarland allowed inherited runners to score and hurt Gonzalez's ERA, Francisco Rodriguez did the same to McFarland, coming in relief in the seventh inning and giving up three hits in 1.1 innings, with the Yankees' eighth run being charged to McFarland.
The Orioles had a chance to win tonight with a good starting pitching performance. Unfortunately for them, they did not get any such thing. If you take out Chris Tillman's gem from Boston, the rotation has had a 9.82 ERA in the other three games of the road trip. Even with Tillman's start, O's starting pitchers have allowed 18 earned runs in 20 innings in the last four games. File that under yikes.
The loss drops the O's to four games back in the wild card chase, pending the result of a west coast game between Tampa Bay and Oakland. The Yankees are only half a game behind the Orioles in the AL East standings, and with another loss tomorrow, the O's would fall into fourth place in the division.
They will be back in action Saturday afternoon with a 1:05 start time. Scott Feldman will try to work his ground ball magic, with Ivan Nova, who has already pitched one complete game against the O's this season, starting for New York.