The Orioles have not had much success against anyone this season, except for the Yankees. This, however, was not one of their nights. Alex Cobb pitched well yet again, and the O’s offense collected 10 hits, but a poor showing from the Baltimore bullpen allowed the Bronx Bombers to prevail 7-5 in 10 innings at Camden Yards on Friday night, the opening game of Players’ Weekend in Major League Baseball.
Things got real weird in the first inning. It was like the Orioles just forgot that they were, in fact, the Orioles. In the Yankees turn of the frame, they got runners to second and third after Cedric Mullins, the rookie sensation who has been a marked improvement in center field, made an error on a routine single up the middle. Normally, this would spell disaster for the 2018 Birds. Instead, Alex Cobb just struck out the next batter to get out of trouble. So strange.
In the bottom of the inning, things got even more odd. Mullins atoned for his miscue with a seeing-eye single up the middle. Jonathan Villar followed with a perfectly placed push bunt to the right side of the infield, forcing both the first and second baseman to run towards the ball while starter CC Sabathia remained firmly planted on the mound. An Adam Jones flyout with two runners on base felt much more “on-brand” for this bunch, but Mullins and Villar made it into a positive by both advancing a base on the resulting throw in from the outfield. Trey Mancini walked to load the bases for the face of this team’s struggles, Chris Davis. You know what happens next...or do you?
After immediately falling into an 0-2 hole, Davis swung at the third pitch and miraculously made contact, pulling it into right field and scoring Mullins and Villar to get the O’s an early two-run advantage. Huzzah! Tim Beckham and Renato Nunez both struck out to kill the rally, but damage had been done. The Orioles played an acceptable brand of “small ball” that led to runs. It was actually fun to watch!
Meanwhile, Cobb was making relatively easy work of the Yankees lineup. He avoided the big man, Giancarlo Stanton, by walking him twice and inducing a fly out once. Against a club that is missing some of their big bats due to injury, it was an approach that made a lot of sense. It’s difficult to doubt anything Cobb does lately. He had a 2.17 ERA in his previous six starts. That number would go up a bit, but the right-hander was impressive once again on Friday.
Cobb’s only mistake in this one came during the fourth inning. With Neil Walker aboard after singling, the O’s pitcher served up a curveball in the middle of the plate to Luke Voit. The former St. Louis Cardinals player smacked the pitch into the left-center bleachers, tying the score at two runs apiece.
Other than that, Cobb was good. His redemption from struggles in the season’s first half continued. Over six innings, he allowed just the two runs on three hits, three walks and six strikeouts. His season ERA now sits at 5.00, a huge drop from the 7.23 he had back on June 10. Don’t be surprised if he ends the season as the Orioles team leader in ERA, which is both amazing and depressing.
Sabathia settled down after an erratic opening inning to shut down the Orioles in his first start since returning from a DL stint that cost him about two weeks with a right knee injury. Those two runs in the first inning were all he allowed over six innings of work, while striking out eight, walking two and serving up five hits.
The Orioles managed to get to his first replacement, David Robertson. John Andreoli reached base on an error by Gleyber Torres, and then Villar made it hurt with a home run to left-center to regain the two-run lead for the home team.
It would be short-lived, however. Mike Wright Jr. stayed on to face Stanton in the eighth inning after working out of some trouble in the seventh. But he walked the slugger and was then given the hook in favor of Paul Fry. The lefty pitched better than the box score will suggest as he only recorded one out and allowed two soft hits before he too was removed from the game. On came Mychal Givens to save the day, but he was unable to do so. The first batter he faced, Torres, singled to right field. Jones came up throwing after one run had already scored and may have beaten the second runner home, but catcher Austin Wynns was unable to hold onto the ball. Like that, the Yankees had tied things up once again.
That is right where the score would stay as the O’s and Yanks headed into extra innings. Cody Carroll emerged from the bullpen in the 10th inning to face his former parent club, but things did not go well. He recorded the first out, but then sort of fell apart. Walker hit a solo home run to give the Bombers their first lead of the night. Torres followed with a walk and what would proved to be an unneeded stolen base before Voit hit his second dong of the night to make it a 7-4 advantage for the visitors. Carroll composed himself and struck out the next two batters to end the inning, but the Orioles fate had been sealed.
With Aroldis Chapman hurt, Zach Britton took on the role of closer in this game for New York. He trotted in from center field like he had done so many times before in Camden Yards. This time he did it for a different team, but the result was familiar, albeit shaky.
Jones led off with a single but was erased on a double play off the bat of Mancini. The O’s weren’t quite done, though, as Davis got his third hit of the night, drilling a long fly ball to the batter’s eye in center to draw the good guys within two runs. They would get no closer, unfortunately, as Beckham grounded out to end the night.
Despite the loss, the O’s had some nice individual performances. Davis, as mentioned before, had three hits and three RBI as well as a couple nice defensive plays. Villar also had three hits as well as two RBI and a sliding play on a pop up into shallow right field. Jones had a multi hit game and Mullins continues to get on base, this time with a single and a walk. Tanner Scott was the only reliever to emerge unscathed, giving the O’s a scoreless ninth inning.
This series is far from over. These two clubs meet three more times this weekend. Saturday is a split double-header. First, Jimmy Yacabonis (0-1, 6.75 ERA) takes on J.A. Happ (14-6, 3.84 ERA) at 1:05 p.m. in the makeup of a June 3 rain-out. Then, Andrew Cashner (4-11, 4.84 ERA) heads to the hill to face the ever-teetering Sonny Gray (9-8, 5.34 ERA) at 7:05 p.m. then the entire world gets watch the O’s on Sunday Night Baseball for some reason. Should be a SUPER fun couple days of baseball.