The Orioles stopped their three-game losing streak tonight with a nail-biter of a win against the Yankees. All of the scoring was done via solo home run, with the Orioles getting one each from bash brothers Chris Davis and Ryan Flaherty, and the Yankees getting theirs off the bat of oldster Alex Rodriguez. Of the two starting pitchers tonight, Masahiro Tanaka definitely had better stuff than Kevin Gausman, but some days that ends up not mattering.
Let's talk about Goose first. He had a long first inning in which he needed 27 pitches to get out of the inning. With two outs he walked Brian McCann and gave up a single to A-Rod, which brought rookie Greg Bird to the plate. A cute story about Bird and Gausman: they were teammates in high school! Now that's something that doesn't happen very often, former high school teammates facing off against each other in the majors. And to top it off, Bird was a catcher in high school so he and Gausman were battery-mates. Gausman won the first of what will probably be many battles between the two, striking out Bird on 96-mph fastball.
Gausman settled down after that, though he flirted with danger multiple times and his pitch count rose quickly. He got himself into and out of trouble in both the third and fifth innings, though he was victim of a cheap hit in each (A-Rod's hit in the first was cheap as well). In the third inning he gave up a one-out single to Jacoby Ellsbury and a cheapo groundball single to McCann that Schoop couldn't quite get to, but retired A-Rod to get out of it. In the fifth, Brendan Ryan hit a line drive back up the middle for a single, then Carlos Beltran blooped one into left field in front of Nolan Reimold. Gausman again got out of it, striking out McCann on a high 98-mph fastball.
Despite not giving up any runs through five innings, Gausman had thrown 97 pitches and had a few labor-intensive innings under his belt. He came back out for the sixth inning and immediately gave up a solo home run to Alex Rodriguez. Oops. With 103 pitches and the game tied 1-1, Buck Showalter pulled Gausman in favor of T.J. McFarland.
Honestly, I'm conflicted on this. On one hand I feel like the season is pretty much lost so why not just see if Gausman could get out of it? On the other hand, the game was tied and the Orioles still had a chance to win, and if Buck thinks the best chance of that is to take Goose out then, well all right. But then bringing in T.J. McFarland doesn't seem to jive with that either, as Teej has had, let's say, mixed results on the year.
Well, both Buck and T.J. showed me, as he proceeded to pitch 2 1/3 innings with just one baserunner allowed. He did a fantastic job of bridging the gap to the back-of-the-bullpen guys. Sorry about doubting you, Teej!
As for Tanaka, he looked really good. He didn't give up a hit until the fifth inning, and it was a cheap grounder to second base that Didi Gregorius (who was playing on the right side due to the shift), couldn't get a handle on. It was a ball that possibly could have been scored an error, but was not. That play put runners on the corners with two outs, as Chris Davis had walked earlier in the inning. But J.J. Hardy popped out to end the inning. Hardy looked a lot like he did before he went on the DL, which is to say he looked bad at the plate. Handsome! But bad.
The second hit that Tanaka gave up to the O's was much less cheap of a shot. Ryan Flaherty, who was playing first base tonight, lined a ball over the right field wall for a solo home run. At the time it gave the Orioles a 1-0 lead. The Orioles put runners on against Tanaka in both the seventh and eighth innings, but couldn't score, leading us to wonder if the Yankees would hit the go-ahead home run in the eighth or the walk-off home run in the ninth. Thankfully, they did neither.
Darren O'Day relieved McFarland with one out in the eighth and made quick work of A-Rod and Bird. That made him the pitcher of record in the ninth inning and thus the beneficiary of Chris Davis's 41st home run of the year. Chasen Shreve had replaced Tanaka. McCann set up low and away, Shreve threw the pitch down the middle instead, and Thor made him pay. Thanks for playing, Chasen. According to ESPN Stats & Info, that was Davis's 7th go-ahead home run in the 9th inning or later since the start of last season, the most in that span. He's clutch, y'all.
What the Orioles and their fans needed was stress-free ninth inning, and Zach Britton delivered just that. It was classic Britton with two ground outs and a strikeout, sealing the win for the Orioles. It's just their fourth win in their last 19 games, but could also be the start of a winning streak. You never know!
The rubber match between the Orioles and Yankees will take place tomorrow with Ubaldo Jimenez on the mound vs CC Sabathia.