When the Orioles took the field this afternoon, it felt like an eternity since they’d actually played a game. I barely recognized the sport. What even is “Base Ball”? What is this spinning white orb bestitched in red? And is this some kind of dried cow-skin worn on your hands? How unusual!
Have I made my point yet? If not, I’ve got plenty more of these.
Unfortunately, the return to action wasn’t worth the wait for the Orioles, who were torched for four more homers in a 5-3 loss to the Yankees to open a doubleheader. Perhaps it’s not a surprise that the gopher ball-prone David Hess and the Orioles weren’t a great fit for dinger-friendly Yankee Stadium. Even an injury-ravaged New York lineup that’s missing its top five home run guys from last season — Giancarlo Stanton, Didi Gregorius, Miguel Andujar, Aaron Hicks, and Aaron Judge — provided plenty of pop.
The first inning played out identically for both teams, with each getting a two-out solo homer from its No. 3 hitter. For the Orioles, it was Trey Mancini, his eighth of the year. For the Yankees, Gary Sanchez did the honors with his 12th, half of which have come against the Orioles. It was also the 11th homer of the year allowed by David Hess, and hoo boy, were there more of those to come.
The O’s grabbed the lead back in the top of the second. With two outs and a man at first, Austin Wynns laced a double into the left-field corner that probably shouldn’t have scored a run, but the Yankees muffed the play so badly — first with left fielder Mike Tauchman bobbling the ball, then the cutoff man dropping the relay to the infield — that Hanser Alberto was able to motor around to the plate. Bad Yankees defense makes me smile.
This lead was similarly short lived. Gleyber Torres led off the bottom of the second with a mammoth home run to center. Before the ball even cleared the wall, MASN’s Gary Thorne muttered, “This is unbelievable.” Later he lamented: “They’re just hit so hard!” Welcome to the 2019 Orioles pitching staff.
Three batters later, Cameron Maybin eked a Yankee Stadium special just over the right field wall. For the second time in the inning, Thorne intoned, “Goodbye, home run,” adding, “Cameron Maybin!??” with an inflection of such disbelief and slight disgust that it made me chuckle. I mean, what else can you do? The Orioles’ incredible propensity for giving up home runs — and particularly Hess — is bordering on parody at this point. The Yanks had their first lead at 3-2.
The scrappy Orioles battled back in the fourth when the horribly slumping Renato Nunez, in the midst of a 1-for-31 malaise, showed signs of a breakout by blasting a J.A. Happ pitch into the left field seats. It was Nunez’s seventh of the year, but his first since April 23. And we’re knotted again at three...
...for about half a minute. Because Hess, of course, immediately gave up another home run. Torres did the honors again as the leadoff man in the fourth. That’s No. 14 of the season allowed by Hess, in case you lost track. The Yankees scored their first non-homer run later that inning, as miscast outfielder Trey Mancini dropped a ball in the right-field corner for a three-base error, setting up a Tauchman RBI single.
One of Hess’s biggest problems in this game — other than allowing 1,576 feet worth of home runs, of course — was that he was incapable of throwing a shutdown inning. All three times that the O’s scored in the top half, Hess gave up one or more of his own in the bottom half. That’s such a letdown.
Hess, to his credit, managed to tough out six innings this afternoon, his first outing of that length since his 6.1-inning no-hitter in Toronto on April 1. He threw a ton of strikes — 60 of his 89 pitches. Too bad so many of them were smacked out of the park.
Hess lasted longer than his counterpart, Happ, who was pulled with one out in the sixth. But when you have the kind of bullpen the Yankees do, you can afford a shorter leash with your starters.
Sure enough, the strikeout-happy Yanks relief crew made mincemeat of O’s hitters for the rest of the day. Adam Ottavino, Tommy Kahnle, old friend Zack Britton, and Aroldis Chapman combined for seven strikeouts in 3.2 scoreless innings to finish things off. Their dominance, at least, allowed this game to end in a brisk two hours, 12 minutes. I do like a quick baseball game, although I would’ve preferred a different result.
Scarf down that dinner. The Orioles have another game to play in about half an hour. Hopefully it’ll go better than the first.