In the fourth inning of Tuesday’s game against the Yankees, a harmless fly ball landed between Cedric Mullins and Anthony Santander in right-center field. Orioles broadcaster Kevin Brown was calling the game, and made the sort of sound one would make upon noticing a gallon of milk had gone bad.
“Oh, no...” he said. “Eccchhhhh.”
Brown was referring to the one play, but he may as well have been referring to the entire game. After busting out the bats in a 7-1 victory in the series opener Monday, Baltimore looked every bit the part of a 38-67 team in a 13-1 loss to the Yankees Tuesday.
The Orioles have had more than a few losses this year that were pretty much over early, and this was one of them. New York was up 6-0 in the third, and 9-0 in the fourth. Alexander Wells lasted 2.1 innings, whereas Yankees starter Luis Gil, making his first career start, tossed six scoreless. New York had seven extra-base hits and left three on base. Baltimore had two and left eight. That’s a rough ratio.
So, yeah. Not great.
Things looked okay at first. Wells got the first five batters out, he had his breaking ball clicking at times, things were going fine. But New York got a two-out rally going in the second when Gary Sanchez singled to center and Gleyber Torres lined a 3-2 pitch into the right-center field gap to score him for a 1-0 lead.
Then the roof caved in. Storm clouds gathered when Wells hit No. 9 hitter Greg Allen with a 1-2 pitch, putting the leadoff man on, and the Orioles couldn’t hold back the downpour. D.J. LeMahieu doubled into the right-center field gap, and Allen raced home to score and make it 2-0 when Pat Valaika’s relay throw to the plate was too far up the line towards third. A good throw may not have been in time, but it would have been close.
Instead, the Yankees were off and running. Anthony Rizzo hit a hard single up the middle, sending LeMahieu to third, and both runners advanced a base when Mullins’s throw in caromed off the second base bag towards the first base line. Aaron Judge followed with a broken-bat single to left, putting runners at the corners, and Giancarlo Stanton then drilled a pitch up the middle for a single that scored Rizzo to make it 4-0.
Joey Gallo struck out for the first out of the inning, but Sanchez then roped a double to left to score Judge and Torres had a sacrifice fly to score Stanton and round out the five-run inning.
In the fourth, the Orioles dealt the big blow to themselves. There was already an out when LeMahieu lofted a lazy fly ball to right that Mullins converged on...and Santander converged on...with Mullins looking to Santander...and Santander looking back at him...both of them forgetting just one thing. The ball.
Obviously players are human and mistakes like this happen, even in the major leagues, but the fact that it occurred in a game that was spiraling out of control just added to the tragic comedy of the night. Adam Plutko, who relieved Wells in the third, then gave up a single to Rizzo, but bounced back to fan Judge. He was one out from escaping unscathed when he threw a pitch that Stanton could float towards Yankee Stadium’s Little League right field fence. Gone, 9-0 Yankees.
The Yankees managed to score four more runs in the eighth on a two-run double by Tyler Wade, an RBI groundout from Rizzo and a home run from Judge, but the had already been decided then and there, especially since the Orioles had very little success against a pitcher who was seemingly ripe for a bad night. Gil was only pitching because Gerrit Cole came down with COVID, and he was coming off of a Triple-A stint in which his ERA hovered at 5.64.
In his debut, however, Gil looked like a seasoned vet. He was too much for the Birds, allowing only four hits and walking just one - he had walked 23 in 30.1 Triple-A innings - while allowing no runs in six innings. The Orioles had a few mini threats against him with the hole already dug; Anthony Santander and Austin Hays singled with two outs in the fourth, only for D.J. Stewart to fly out, and Baltimore had runners on second and third in the sixth, only for Hays to strike out on the last pitch Gil threw.
Despite the final margin, there were bright spots. Ryan Mountcastle had a two-hit game, one of them being a double that scored Mullins for the team’s only run in the eighth, and Mullins singled leading off that inning to extend his hitting streak to 12 games.
The best development, however, was a strong relief outing from Keegan Akin, who threw three scoreless innings while allowing only one baserunner. Perhaps he was benefitting from facing a lineup that was all tuckered out from all that hitting and scoring in the third and fourth innings, but it was still encouraging to see from someone who entered with an 8.14 ERA and was long due for a strong outing. If this is a turning point for Akin, the team’s No. 15 prospect last year, a 13-1 loss is a small price to pay.