Game 25: NYY vs. BAL — Lucky #9

Okay, so I’m a little confused. Do people even go to baseball games in Baltimore anymore? Once again, Camden Yards was at just 35% capacity. You could see so many empty green seats all over the stadium on any wide shot. I can’t say that is great for team spirit or hometown pride or anything else. Charm City certainly isn’t showing much charm in that case.

But I digress. The Yankees came into this game, the middle game of the series in Baltimore, having lost their last 8 games in a row. And the slump was all anyone could talk about. Then, Alex Rodriguez (more on him later) came into the clubhouse and gave a bit of a pep talk, seeing no reason why they shouldn’t be hitting 5 runs in every game. And I agree with him. It’s just not been happening.

Until tonight, that is. The Yankees sent up CC Sabathia to start tonight’s game. Fun fact on Sabathia in similar scenarios: in the 8 years Sabathia has been a Yankee, this is the 4th time he started a game when the Yankees needed to break a bad losing streak (losing 5 or more games); and after tonight, his own streak continues with being super successful (4 wins for 4 opportunities). But Sabathia was pitching like vintage Sabathia tonight, and it was good. So very good. 99 pitches over 7 shutout innings, giving up just 6 hits and 2 walks, and striking out 6 batters.

Kirby Yates came on in the 8th, and after a nice strikeout, loaded the bases with a double and 2 walks. An odd outing for an otherwise strong reliever. There was no way the Yankees were about to let this slip through their hands. And who do you call? Dellin Betances, of course. 3 pitches – strike out. 3 more pitches – pop-up. Bases loaded threat avoided in 6 beautiful pitches.

Chasen Shreve added beauty to the 9th inning with 16 pitches and 2 strikeouts of his own creation. Shreve’s pitching was eerily similar to the Shreve from Spring Training. And where he struggled some earlier on this road trip, he seems back into Shreve-form.

Worth noting: collectively, the Yankee pitchers struck out 10 Orioles batters tonight. In light of recent game stats, it’s nice to see them putting up these kinds of numbers.

And speaking of numbers, both Sabathia and the Orioles starter were dealing with a shut-out game on both sides. Both were waiting to see who cracked first. It was the Orioles, which is exactly what the Yankees needed. Even Gardner pre-game was determined that this was a “must win” for the team. (Gee, these veteran players really know what they’re talking about.)

In the 6th inning, with 1 out, Ellsbury singled, stole 2nd base, moved to 3rd on Gardner’s single, and then scored on Carlos Beltran’s sacrifice fly to get things started. After Teixeira worked a walk, Brian McCann singled home Gardner, moving Teixeira to 3rd. A throwing error by the pitcher himself allowed Castro to reach safely and Teixeira to score. A 3-run inning is not a bad way to break through the zeroes on the scoreboard.

Then in the 8th, the Yankees mustered together to expand their lead and solidify Sabathia’s win tonight. Beltran’s lead-off double and Teixeira’s 2nd walk of the night allowed them to both score on McCann’s nice double. McCann ended up on 3rd on the throw. As no outs had been recorded yet for the inning, the Orioles wisely changed out their pitcher. The new guy promptly got 2 outs, but the Yankees recovered and added more runs. Didi Gregorius singled to score McCann, and Headley’s single and Ellsbury’s walk loaded the bases. Then Brett Gardner was hit by a pitch right on the elbow (more below). Gregorius thus scored on that to cap off the Yankees’ runs tonight.

Okay, can I just take a moment to brag on Jacoby Ellsbury tonight? I mean, he’s always just stellar in center field, but tonight he also showed off with some great offensive contribution to the team. He went 3-for-3, with a run scored, 2 walks, and 2 stolen bases just tonight. In other words, every time he was up to bat, he got on base and did amazing things to help the Yankees win. Talk about breaking a slump and setting an example.

Final score: 7-0 Yankees (boy, does that feel good to write!)

Injury update: Alex Rodriguez is out and on the 15-day DL. The MRI revealed a strained hamstring, and the veteran hitter is still quite sore. So he will be resting for the time being. The tricky thing with strains and sprains is that they’re always difficult to judge on a perfect healing time. When it’s a break, it’s either broken or it’s not. But muscles are weird, quirky parts of the body that are anything but predictable in health or recovery.

And Brett Gardner’s elbow injury is concerning, but x-rays and preliminary tests came back negative for anything other than a jarring to the elbow and probable bruise and lingering soreness. You try taking a 93 mph fastball off your elbow and see how fast you want to go out and do something like swing a baseball bat let alone pick up your toothbrush or cereal spoon.

In light of Rodriguez’s injury, instead of calling up an additional bat, the Yankees opted for bullpen help in the form of James Pazos. Pazos even joked about looking forward to batting, but I can see where an extra arm in the bullpen to make what has become an often stilted or shortened starting rotation a little breathing room. With some very minor exceptions, the bullpen has been a shining example and saving grace in more than just a handful of instances this season already. Even tonight.

Gardner later commented that tonight’s win felt like they’d clinched a play-off spot. But Gregorius thinks there might have been a little help from something else (and chose to show off his amazing nerdiness like everyone else today).

Go Yankees!

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