Often times, it’s difficult to explain why baseball games play out the way that they do. The Orioles have suffered tough losses, but it’s safe to say there haven’t been many games that have puzzled fans as much as Friday night’s loss to the Yankees.
Throughout the first several innings, it appeared that Yankees starter C.C. Sabathia couldn’t be stopped. His 2010 self emerged on the mound to kick off the game, shutting down the lineup the first time around with brilliant efficiency.
He threw just 16 pitches over the first two innings, trading zeros with Gausman but concerningly having success with a little bit of everything. For a while, you might’ve expected Jorge Posada and Derek Jeter to emerge from the dugout in between innings.
Fortunately in the top of the third the top of the Orioles lineup emerged and put a finish to the dreaded flashbacks. After Joey Rickard reached with a two-out infield single, an Adam Jones walk set up Manny Machado for the first major run-scoring opportunity of the night.
Machado ripped a first-pitch double over the head of Jacoby Ellsbury, knocking in the first runs of the game. Both Rickard and Jones scored, giving Gausman the 2-0 lead in the third.
The Orioles right-hander settled down and tossed a shut-down third, a perfect answer to get the offense right back to the plate to do what it does best — hit baseballs over fences.
Following a Chris Davis HBP to start the fourth, Wellington Castillo took another first pitch from Sabathia and crushed it over the wall in right to advance the Orioles lead to 4-0. Castillo’s first of the year was a no-doubter that boosted his average to .306 on the season. Don’t look now, but his offseason addition might be one of the better gains of the offseason.
Gausman’s upper-90s fastball continued to help set down the Yankees lineup, getting back into rhythm and giving the Birds a chance to break the game open.
That’s exactly what Machado did, striking again in the fifth. To lead off the inning, he smacked a 2-2 fastball to center for his fourth big fly of the year, an impressive shot that officially ended any chance of Sabathia salvaging his once superb start.
According to @statcast, Machado HR traveled 470 feet, longest of the season— Roch Kubatko (@masnRoch) April 29, 2017
That HR made it 5-0 Orioles, run support welcomed greatly by the night’s starter. And if he enjoyed that, he’d love what would come in the sixth.
After a pair of singles, Sabathia would be run for reliever Bryan Mitchell to try to clean up the mess and keep the game within reach (we’ll get to that in a bit). It was a valiant effort by Joe Girardi, but on this night, the Orioles firework-filled offense wouldn’t be denied.
Mitchell walked Machado to load the bases, setting up for one of the season’s best Trumbo Jumbos.
Mark Trumbo said “what slump?” to to everyone in the baseball world, absolutely blasting a grand slam to left field. His second of the year was gone as soon as it hit the bat, wrapping up any chance that the Yankees had to creep back into the ballgame.
9-1 Orioles: a lead that seemed to be enough. But, this is baseball. Heck with the percentages and win probability — in baseball, weird things happen.
Gausman went out in the sixth inning with an eight-run lead seemingly primed to work through his best outing of the year. It would’ve been a great storyline had it not been for the more pinpoint command struggles around the zone in his final at-bats of the game.
The Yankees scored a trio of runs in the top of the sixth, courtesy of a pair of extra-base hits that included yet another Judge HR, a two-run shot on Gausman’s 102nd pitch of the game. He’d wrap up the inning with Greg Bird groundout, but not before allowing a total of four earned and seven hits.
The final line after a single to start the seventh: 6+ IP, 8 H, 5 ER, 2 BB, 3 K — 7.20 ERA.
Gausman’s start will get plenty of chatter over the next five days, but that isn’t what left the black eye on this game. Starting with Vidal Nuño’s entrance in the seventh inning, everything just... unraveled.
After surrendering a Chase Headley double to put two runners in scoring position, Nuño walked Matt Holiday to give Jacoby Ellsbury the chance to dent the lead. And after falling behind, he allowed the game’s second grand slam to make the score 11-8.
That wasn’t a great sequence, but it didn’t compare to what the ninth inning would bring. Darren O’Day would work a clean eighth, but the nightmare of allowing seven unanswered runs to tie the game emerged into reality.
After Brad Brach walked Headley to lead off the ninth, Matt Holiday singled to get the tying run to the plate, the crack needed to get back into this strange game of Friday night baseball. Ellsbury grounded in a run and with one out... well, there’s no sugarcoating what happened next.
Starlin Castro homered. Brach blew the save. The game was tied at 11.
You could argue that this game deserved extra innings, so it shouldn’t be surprising that free baseball was what we received on this night. Still, it was a brutal way to wrap up a game, especially after watching Jayson Aquino’s performance in the bottom of the 10th.
Aroldis Chapman worked a scoreless inning before Aquino came on, a call to the ‘pen that ended the worst loss of the early 2017 season.
After walking the first two batters of the innings, Aquino threw a changeup that didn’t catch a whole lot of the plate, but just enough for Holliday to launch a three-run HR to centerfield and end this strange, strange game.
14-11 Yankees, game over.
With games like these, we’re all reminded that baseball doesn’t make sense sometimes.
That’s what makes it great, but it doesn’t make it any easier to understand.
Tomorrow’s second game of the series begins at 1:05.