Can this surprisingly effective Orioles team compete against the big boys come fall? As the team embarks on the second half of the season, that is the million-dollar question.
From a game like this, you conclude, well, definitely maybe.
Tyler Wells, whether from rust or the 91-degree heat, struggled with command, and two clunkers to Aaron Judge were translated into two mammoth homers and four Yankees runs. It’s not the worst thing in the world to be owned by this season’s likely AL MVP, but it does suck for the offense to go 1-for-9 with RISP and score only two runs against a wobbly-looking Jameson Taillon who took 67 pitches to go 2.2 innings. Down 7-3 in the seventh, the O’s cut the lead to one on an Anthony Santander bomb, but that was as close as they came.
This was not the sparkling Tyler Wells who threw five straight starts this spring without issuing a walk. Still, the big righty had his moments. He gutsily steered through a scoreless first inning after a leadoff walk and full counts to Aaron Judge and Anthony Rizzo. Wells finished off Rizzo with a high fastball and got an inning-ending double play when LeMahieu broke for second and Captain America threw him out by a country mile.
Wells also dominated the Yankees in the second inning—his three-pitch annihilation of Giancarlo Stanton was a thing of beauty.
But he surrendered three runs in the third in a really stupid way. After two quick outs, he walked the .162-hitting Joey Gallo before an oppo-field DJ LeMahieu single brought up Aaron Judge. Oppo-field singles: it’s what LeMahieu does, but ... Gallo? Down 2-0 to Judge, Wells threw a sinker that fooled him. It wasn’t the pitch Judge was looking for. Then Wells threw a fastball. It was the pitch Judge was looking for, and he crushed it into the bleachers, making it 3-0 Yankees.
Wells showed grit in trying to go deep today, but he allowed a run apiece in the fourth and fifth innings. He hung a changeup to Josh Donaldson and left up a fastball to José Trevino for a fourth Yankees run. (Cedric Mullins made a heroic effort on the Trevino ball, but the relay home somehow got needlessly delayed by a hesitating Rougned Odor. Would a quick throw have made a difference and nailed the runner? I’m not sure. But it wasn’t an excellent play by Odor, and the Yankees had their fourth run.)
At 71 pitches and with two outs in the fifth, Wells was entrusted with facing Judge for a third time. A teachable moment, in manager Brandon Hyde’s mind? It’ll go down as a bad decision by Hyde. Wells left up an 87-mph changeup and Judge clobbered it 465 feet. A huge highlight reel blast. The MFY fans loved it. Yuck. 5-2 Yankees.
Meanwhile, the Orioles offense wasted good early chances tonight but they were also pesky and relentless.
Down in a 3-0 hole, they rallied to snatch back two runs in the third. The rock-steady Ramón Urías led off with a single, and Jorge Mateo scorched a 107.9-mph RBI double. Scoring Mateo from second doesn’t take much, and a singlin’ Cedric Mullins was more than capable. Unfortunately, the Yankees brought in lefty Lucas Luetge to throw his 72-mph garbage and with two outs, Austin Hays popped out.
For 2.1 innings, Orioles bats were quieted by the loopy Luetge, the only solid contact a Mateo fly ball robbed by a rolling Judge in center and an Adley double. (It’s what he does.)
But they scratched out a third run against Jonathan Loaisga in the sixth when Austin Hays walked, Rougned Odor doubled to the left-center gap, and Urías hit a little RBI grounder. Mateo stung a ball, unluckily, right at the second baseman (his third well-hit ball of the day, for anyone who’s counting).
The O’s luck went the wrong way as the Yankees widened the gap against an unlucky/ineffective Joey Krehbiel. Josh Donaldson hit a bloop double and scored on a single up the middle. Their seventh run came the old-fashioned noisy way, too, as Krehbiel allowed a homer to … [checks notes] Joey freakin’ Gallo?? C’mon!
Another year, perhaps, the Orioles would have slunk to an ignominious 7-3 defeat. This year, with lots of dawg but no quit to be found anywhere in Oriole Park, the Orioles brought the score within one. With Aroldis Chapman in for the seventh, Mullins singled. Trey Mancini worked a nice walk. The pitching coach came out to kill some time while Michael King warmed up, but maybe he should have killed more: Aroldis hung a ball to Santander, and Tony blasted a no-doubter over Mt. Walltimore. The Orioles were within one!
Spoiler alert: they couldn’t score it. Michael King shut the bats down before exiting with what looked like a bad elbow injury, and Clay Holmes silenced them, too (except for a fantastic Adley infield single in the ninth inning).
Star pitching performances in losses don’t get enough love, but some appreciation for the late-innings bullpen real quick: Bryan Baker had the unenviable task of facing Judge in the seventh. He beat him with a biting cutter, a huge K that got the stadium fired up. Félix Bautista pitched a filthy eighth inning. He threw 12 pitches, nine for strikes, and whiffed the side, including Josh Donaldson with 101 at the knees. So did Dillon Tate, flashing 97 with horizontal movement and bringing the O’s pen to six straight K’s. I was really happy for these guys, flashing their stuff on a national stage.
So, conclusion: Wells was flawed but not terrible, the Orioles came close but didn’t win, the bullpen is still good and Aaron Judge can hit home runs. The unnecessary walks and missed run-scoring opportunities loomed large tonight, but OK, lessons learned. With any luck, forcing the Yankees bullpen to cover 6.1 innings gives the Orioles an opportunity to try and get a win tomorrow.