“What is happening in this ballpark tonight?” said MASN announcer Kevin Brown incredulously in the bottom of the eighth inning, just after the Orioles had let a third (third!) catchable fly ball fall in for a gift hit.
No statement better sums up the Orioles’ debacle of an evening than Brown’s rhetorical lament. In a game that looked promising for about three innings, the O’s shot themselves in the foot and limped out of Yankee Stadium defeated, a self-immolation on defense and in the bullpen dooming them to a 10-3 loss.
It’s a shame, because the Orioles got off to a fast start — literally — with Cedric Mullins’ speed wreaking havoc in the first. He led off the game with a single against Jameson Taillon and took off for second on a hit-and-run. Ramon Urias lashed a single to left and Mullins kept motoring to third, which distracted Joey Gallo enough to bobble the ball and let Urias advance to second.
Ryan Mountcastle lifted a fly ball to medium-deep right field as Mullins tagged. The strong-armed Aaron Judge unleashed a cannon of a throw to the plate that would’ve nailed perhaps 99 percent of major league baserunners. Mullins is not one of them. The speedster blazed down the line and beat the tag by an eyelash for the Orioles’ first run. The next batter, Austin Hays, blooped a single to shallow left to plate Urias, staking Matt Harvey to a 2-0 lead before he took the mound.
Which brings us to the man of the hour. Matt Harvey was seeking to become the first pitcher in Orioles history to toss four straight starts of 6+ scoreless innings. (File that sentence under “Things that would’ve made me sound like a lunatic if I’d said them a month ago.”) For this version of Matt Harvey to toss 18.1 scoreless innings in a row defies all reasonable explanation. Baseball is a weird, weird game.
Tonight, that wonderful craziness continued — for a while — as Harvey extended his scoreless streak for three more innings. He had to labor through the first when Anthony Rizzo dueled him for a 13-pitch walk, but his very next pitch was grounded into an inning-ending double play by Judge. Harvey then mowed through a perfect second and third and, after a Ryan Mountcastle fourth-inning homer extended the lead to 3-0, looked to be on cruise control again.
It all fell apart, unfortunately, in the fourth, when Harvey not only coughed up a couple runs but suffered an injury that prematurely ended his night. Rizzo continued to be a pest with a one-out home run to center field, snapping Harvey’s scoreless streak at 21.2 innings. It was a heck of a run! Or rather, a heck of no runs.
Still leading the game, the Orioles picked a poor time to remind people that they are, in fact, the Orioles, unleashing a disaster of a defensive play. Judge looped a high, routine fly ball to short right field. The second baseman Urias backpedaled into a dizzying route, while right fielder DJ Stewart made no immediate effort to charge the ball, and somehow it dropped safely between them. That’s a ball that should have been Stewart’s all the way, but he continued his streak of committing a defensive misplay in all 166 games of his career. (Don’t fact check me on that.)
Wouldn’t you know it, that gift baserunner came in to score. Gallo replaced Judge on the basepaths on a fielder’s choice, and later motored home on a Gleyber Torres single. Harvey managed to strand two baserunners on an inning-ending flyout — on which Mullins vehemently called off Stewart to avoid any further defensive gaffes — but surprisingly, Harvey didn’t return to the mound in the fifth.
With his pitch count only at 63, the speculation was that Harvey must be injured. Indeed that was the case, as Brandon Hyde told reporters after the game that the hurler tweaked his knee fielding a comebacker, but is expected to make his next start.
Once the Orioles’ bullpen got involved, it was all downhill. Cesar Valdez surrendered the lead in the fifth on a DJ LeMahieu RBI single, and Cole Sulser, after a scoreless sixth, walked the leadoff man in the seventh. Nothing good happens after a walk! Especially a leadoff walk in a tie game! In this case, it was followed by a second walk, issued by Paul Fry to Gary Sanchez, and what should have been a third walk but for a clearly outside 3-1 pitch to LeMahieu called strike two. No matter — LeMahieu swung at the next pitch and roped a shot through Fry’s legs and off the glove of a diving Urias to score the go-ahead run.
Brandon Hyde summoned Dillon Tate to try to keep the game close, but instead it only became more lopsided. Tate got a big second out by freezing Judge before a Gallo walk loaded the bases. That brought up Giancarlo Stanton and another opportunity for the O’s defense to not make a play. Stanton lofted a blooper into shallow right that Mountcastle and Stewart chased, to no avail. It dropped just inside the foul line, bringing home all three baserunners and giving Stanton a double. Ugh. That one might be chalked up mostly to bad luck, but a better defense probably could’ve turned it into an out. Torres followed with a double to plate Stanton, making it an 8-3 game.
The impending blowout gave Hyde a chance to use one of his newly promoted relievers, right-hander and expert backflipper Dusten Knight, to make his major league debut in the eighth. It was the culmination of a fascinating professional journey for Knight, who was drafted by the Giants in 2013 and made his way through the Mexican League and independent ball among other stops before finally arriving in the bigs at age 30.
Unfortunately, the Yankees don’t care about a good story, and they gave Knight a rude introduction. The O’s awful defense once again didn’t help matters, either. Jonathan Davis led off with a single, followed by a Sanchez blooper to left in which Hays appeared to call for the ball, only to inexplicably let up and stare at shortstop Richie Martin, allowing it to drop in (and inciting the bewildered Brown call from the intro). Both runners scored on a LeMahieu double before Knight recovered to retire the next three batters.
The Orioles, battered and beaten, went quietly in the end. Mullins was even cut down trying to stretch a single into a double down by five runs in the eighth, thinking he could once again beat a throw from Judge. This time, he did not. The O’s ultimately fell by a 10-3 score in a game they once led 3-0, turning a potential winning series — and road trip — into losses for both. They’ll be back in Baltimore on Friday.