There were innings aplenty. There were homers galore. There were injuries en masse. There was a homer-robbing catch, and a game-saving block at home plate by a pitcher. There were questionable interpretations of rules. There was a Jonathan Schoop bunt! And there was a tie-breaking grand slam by a guy who didn’t even enter the game until the 10th.
Let’s delve into this craziness, shall we?
Dingers on parade
The Orioles faced a familiar opponent tonight in CC Sabathia, starting against the Orioles for the 42nd time. The esteemed Stacey summed up my opinion on Sabathia: “I kind of thought he’d be bad by now.” But at age 37, the 300-pound lefty keeps plugging along.
Not tonight, though. The Orioles tagged Sabathia for a barrage of long balls, starting with Manny Machado’s second-deck blast in the first inning, his first of the year.
Manny wasn’t finished. Two innings later, he tattooed another no-doubter dong over the left-field fence, giving him his 15th career multi-homer game. The New York media will surely paint this as something like, “Machado puts on a show in front of his possible future team!” I will not be reading New York media tonight.
Machado wasn’t the only Oriole to get off the schneid in the home run column. In the fourth, Chris Davis — who entered the game 2-for-25 this season with no extra-base hits — tagged Sabathia for a mammoth shot into the right-center-field seats. At last, Davis now has as many home runs this year as Rene Rivera and Niko Goodrum. It’s certainly promising to see Davis pop one. So much for the dummy who wrote in the series preview that the Orioles should bench Davis against Sabathia.
The Orioles didn’t get much of a chance to continue their dinger onslaught against Sabathia. Right hip soreness forced him out of the game after four innings.
The Yankees strike back
Orioles starter Kevin Gausman had an unfortunate case of give-back-itis, immediately letting the Yankees tie the game every time he was handed a lead. After taking the mound with a 1-0 lead in the first, he walked the first batter on four pitches and then plunked Aaron Judge, setting the table for a Giancarlo Stanton broken-bat RBI single. Still, Gausman limited the damage, inducing three consecutive groundouts to prevent further scoring.
In the third, after Machado’s second homer put the Orioles on top, 2-1, Gausman surrendered a double and a Judge RBI single (again on a broken-bat blooper) to knot the score.
Overall, Gausman had a decent, if labored, outing. He threw 96 pitches in five innings (plus one batter) and limited the Yankees to two runs and five hits. Nothing to write home about, but the Orioles could — and certainly have — seen worse starts.
After Stanton’s leadoff single chased Gausman in the sixth, reliever Richard Bleier allowed a single of his own to Didi Gregorius, and a Gary Sanchez fielder’s choice put runners on the corners with one out.
The Yankees TOOTBLAN’d themselves out of the rally. Neil Walker tapped a comebacker to Bleier, who trapped a hesitant Stanton in a rundown between third and home. Stanton stayed in the rundown long enough for the trail runner, Sanchez, to motor to third. Finally, Caleb Joseph ran Stanton back to third — he ran past third and into left field, in fact — and tagged him out.
Buck Showalter popped out of the dugout, arguing that Sanchez should’ve also been called out because he technically overran Stanton on the bases (when Stanton jogged into shallow left field). The umpires huddled up and, after a long discussion, decided, “Nah.” I think Buck had a valid point there. But ultimately, it didn’t matter; Bleier got the last out on a Ronald Torreyes grounder, keeping the lead intact.
Alas, the bullpen couldn’t hold the lead forever. With the A-team relievers used the previous night, Showalter turned to his B squad, Bleier and Miguel Castro. The two combined for a scoreless seventh, but one fateful pitch in the eighth made it a brand new ballgame. Gregorius jumped on a Castro sinker and parked it inside the right-field foul pole, tying the game at three.
It just occurred to me that the Yankees have both a CC and a Didi. Can’t wait for them to sign e.e. cummings.
After their early homers, the Orioles had their opportunities to pad their run total. Alas, they squandered every one. In the fifth, a walk and an error put two men in scoring position with one out, but Jonathan Schoop struck out and Adam Jones popped up. The O’s stranded a runner at third in the sixth inning, too.
Fast-forward to the ninth, where a noticeably wild Aroldis Chapman walked two batters and attracted the concern of manager Aaron Boone, who visited him on the mound with the training staff. Boone decided to leave Chapman in, and he threw just one more pitch to finish off an inning-ending strikeout of Trey Mancini.
Extra innings means extra...fun?
In the 10th, the O’s put two runners on base — including a Pedro Alvarez pinch-hit single, the Orioles’ first hit since the fourth — but Colby Rasmus (pinch-hitting for Craig Gentry, who earlier had pinch-run for Davis) struck out swinging.
Mychal Givens, pitching for the second night in a row, looked absolutely dominant in the 10th, striking out the side in order (including Judge and Stanton). But in the 11th, it was as if a switch flipped. Givens suddenly couldn’t find the plate, walking Gregorius to start the inning and falling behind Sanchez 3-0 before recovering to retire him on a grounder.
That’s when things got crazy.
The Orioles intentionally walked Walker to set up a double play, and seemed to have gotten exactly that when Tim Beckham started an apparent 5-4-3 twin killing on Torreyes. But as the jubilant Orioles started to head off the field, the Yankees called for a review at first base. Replays showed that Torreyes’ foot hit the base a split-second before the ball hit the glove, and sure enough, the ruling was overturned and the inning kept alive.
Then, on an 0-2 pitch to Tyler Austin, Givens uncorked a wild pitch outside and in the dirt that Joseph couldn’t corral. Gregorius is steaming home! It looks like it’s all over! Except...Joseph hustled to the ball and flipped a perfect shovel pass to Givens covering home. The former shortstop Givens made a tremendously athletic play to catch the ball while sliding feet-first into the plate, and as he did so, he completely blocked the headfirst-diving Gregorius from touching home. Gregorius was called out as he was being sat on. Rough play for him.
The Yankees, though, wanted another replay review. They argued that Givens was illegally blocking the plate and wasn’t giving Gregorius a clear path.
And that’s where we get into murky, uncharted waters. Because the blocking-home-plate rule that MLB instituted a few years ago doesn’t actually mention pitchers covering home — only catchers. And in this case, with Givens’ momentum taking him straight to the plate, it’s hard to see how he could have caught the ball and still left a clear path for the runner.
Nobody really seemed to know what result to expect from the challenge. Perhaps the umpires were at a loss, too. After a few minutes, they ultimately upheld the out call. And this ludicrous game continued.
The Orioles stranded the bases loaded in the top of the 12th when Rasmus struck out for the second time in the game, and the 13th time in his 22 plate appearances this season. You guys, I don’t think the Colby Rasmus experiment is working out as the Orioles had planned.
The Birds’ best bid to take the lead came in the 13th, when Joseph blasted a deep fly to right. But the 6-foot-7 Judge made a great leaping catch at the wall to rob Joseph of a homer. Would it have killed Judge to be an inch or two shorter?
On the Orioles’ pitching side, much respect is due to Rule 5 righty Pedro Araujo, who mowed through the mighty Yankees lineup with two scoreless innings, allowing just one baserunner. Sure, Stanton came a few feet away from a walkoff homer in the 13th (it went just foul), but Araujo showed a fearlessness you might not expect from a pitcher who had only one game of experience above Single-A before this year. Nicely done.
You mess with the Baby Bull, you get the horns
As the game stretched past the five-hour mark and into Saturday morning, the Orioles finally snapped their nine-scoreless-inning drought and broke through in grand fashion.
Facing Jonathan Holder in the 14th, Mancini drew a leadoff walk and Machado singled, capping his 4-for-5 night. Schoop, who was 0-for-6 at that point, decided to switch things up and surprised the Yankees with a perfect bunt down the third-base line. Torreyes, as much in shock as the rest of us, bounced the throw to first and everyone was safe.
With the bases loaded, the Yankees suffered another injury when the catcher Sanchez exited with an apparent leg cramp, perhaps the result of squatting behind the plate for 14 innings. He was the fourth Yankee to leave the game with an injury or illness, following Sabathia and infielders Brandon Drury and Tyler Wade, and that’s without including whatever was up with Chapman.
Anyway, let’s wrap this thing up. Jones was called out on strikes on a borderline call, but he barely had time to fume about it before Alvarez stepped up and HIT A GRAND SLAM ON THE FIRST PITCH. El Toro! Mark Trumbo’s DL stint afforded Alvarez a spot on the Opening Day roster, and for tonight at least, he took full advantage. That’s the hit the Orioles had been looking for all game.
Finally, after five hours and 20 minutes of thoroughly entertaining, sometimes frustrating, frequently bizarre baseball, Brad Brach worked a perfect bottom of the 14th to finish up a dramatic Orioles win.
Just another night in Birdland.
Who was the Most Birdland Player for April 6, 2018?
This poll is closed
Pedro Alvarez (game-winning grand slam)
Pedro Araujo (two scoreless innings in extras)
Chris Davis (his first home run)
Mychal Givens (game-saving block of home plate)
Manny Machado (4-for-5, two home runs)