Not even facing the leader of the American League East could bring the Orioles winning streak to a screeching halt. Not on Friday night and not on Saturday night either. The streak is now six games, matching the longest Orioles winning streak of the Buck Showalter era. It was the Orioles who looked like a first place team as they beat the Yankees, much like yesterday.
By the time it was all over, the O's had another lopsided win, 9-4, pulling themselves to within two games of first - though they're still in fourth place. The top four teams in the division are 7-3 or better over their last ten games. Toronto has won ten straight now. Sheesh.
Also much like yesterday's game, this one was not one that had an auspicious beginning. There was once again an Orioles starter struggling in the first inning of the game, in this case Bud Norris, whose struggles against lefties were always going to be amplified against a Yankees lineup that can bring out eight out of nine who are either left-handed batters or switch hitters.
Norris gave up three hits in the first inning, with runs scoring on a rare opposite field hit by Mark Teixeira and a Brian McCann double off the right field wall that Delmon Young probably misplayed from a single into an RBI double. It was not an encouraging opening to the game on a night where the O's needed some length from Norris. But, he limited the damage and the Orioles trailed by two runs after half of an inning.
Nolan Reimold resumes an acquaintance
In the time of his major league career, Orioles outfielder Nolan Reimold has faced no pitcher more than tonight's Yankees starter, CC Sabathia. Over the years, his appearances against Sabathia have gone well: in 29 plate appearances before tonight, Reimold had an .863 OPS against Sabathia. That is an exceptional mark for a pitcher who has had such a great career.
The Sabathia of this year is not the Sabathia of the past, however. That's bad for Sabathia. He entered tonight with an ERA over 5 and the Orioles made him look like it. Manny Machado led off the third inning with a single to bring Reimold, the tying run, to the plate.
Sabathia had Reimold retired on a foul pop-up near the Orioles dugout, but Teixeira and McCann shied away from one another and the ball, totally catchable, fell between them. The very next pitch, Reimold homered to tie the game. Isn't that always the way it goes?
With his team catching him up, Norris settled down for a while, retiring 12 out of 13 Yankees batters starting in the second inning. Then the Orioles bats went to work again. They were not done homering. They're never done homering.
Ryan Flaherty led off the bottom of the fifth with a single. Sabathia then let the count get to 3-1 against Machado. That's a bad idea. Machado took advantage of the hitter's count to launch a home run into the Orioles bullpen, giving the team a 4-2 lead. That's Machado's 11th home run of the year, putting him in second place on the Orioles behind Chris Davis' 13.
Reimold followed the home run with a triple. It's not bad when you knock out the home run and triple from a potential cycle right off, but he ended the night 2-5 and got no closer to that cycle. Oh well. He also didn't score in the inning because the 3-4-5 hitters whiffed on the chance to drive a guy in from third starting with no outs. The missed run would, for a brief time, haunt the Orioles.
The Yankees connection to Satan is proved
Alex Rodriguez hit his 666th home run of his career in this game. That's the connection. You already knew this. Now there's proof.
Chase Headley, groin recovered from last night's impact, led off the top of the sixth inning with a single, putting him on base for Rodriguez. Norris made a bad pitch and Rodriguez crushed it, also notching his 2,000th and 2,001st RBI of his career in the process.
The score was thus tied at 4-4 and Norris continued to be on the ropes. Teixeira doubled with none out, though he was erased when O's first baseman Steve Pearce alertly fired across the diamond on a grounder to first. Teixeira looked legitimately stunned when he was tagged out. This proved crucial as it meant the lead runner was only the slow McCann when Didi Gregorius later doubled.
For the second straight game, it was time for the O's to dip into the bullpen in the sixth inning. First up was T.J. McFarland, a lefty coming in to face a lineup full of lefties. A match made in heaven! Except instead of being a LOOGY he was a NOOGY. McFarland walked the .172 hitter Stephen Drew. When Yankees manager Joe Girardi pinch hit right-handed Chris Young, McFarland was yanked for... Chaz Roe?
Roe got Young to hit a harmless fly ball to center, reminding us once again that these are not the loser Orioles of the past who give up gut-wrenching grand slams to the Yankees. Well, that happened once earlier this year, but let's not split hairs.
With the inherited runners being stranded, Norris' line saw him giving up four runs on eight hits in 5.2 innings. His ERA began the day at 8.63 and ended it at 8.29, so he passed the Matusz Test, barely.
Oops, I did it again, I played with your pen, and then won the game
As Yankees reliever Chris Martin was doing his warmup tosses to start the bottom of the sixth inning, the Fox broadcast crew told an almost charming story about how Martin was working at an appliance store, out of baseball after an injury, before realizing he could still throw 94.
Matt Wieters greeted Martin by hitting a double. Martin unleashed the first of three wild pitches in the inning, letting Wieters move up to third base and forcing the Yankees to pull their infielders in. This time the Orioles did not waste the opportunity. J.J. Hardy grounded a little single up the middle that could have only been a hit with the infield in.
Some nights you ride the BABIP dragon. Other nights your flesh is seared before the enormous jaws close upon you and rip you apart. It was the second kind of night for Martin. Later in the inning, Machado squibbed a ball into right field that scored another pair of runs. That's too bad.
The Orioles punished one poor Yankees reliever, Esmil Rogers, so hard yesterday that he was banished from the roster. His replacement was Sergio Santos, who pitched the seventh and eighth innings.
Santos fared little better. The first batter he saw was pinch hitter David Lough and Santos gave up a home run to Lough, the first Orioles pinch hit home run since last June. By the time they were done with Santos, another run had scored and the Orioles were up 9-4, again making a game into something of a laugher once they saw the soft part of the Yankees bullpen.
Meanwhile, Roe chewed up needed innings for the Orioles. He ended up getting through 2.1 innings of relief, though he was helped by a slick double play turned by Ryan Flaherty on a lineout. If you were going to tell me you envisioned Roe successfully pitching clutch innings for the Orioles this year back in spring training, I'd call you a liar. That's what happened, though.
So that's six straight for the Orioles. It also puts Showalter in sole possession of third place on the all time wins list by Orioles managers. He would need to win another 120 to pass Paul Richards for second place.
The O's will go for the sweep of the Yankees on Sunday afternoon at 1:35. Mike Wright is probably starting for the Orioles, while Adam Warren is expected to start for New York.