Another beautiful afternoon for baseball in Baltimore, with the Orioles looking for a sweep, and the Yankees looking to stop that from happening. You never want to lose, but going into your home opener with a 1-5 record so far (and 4-game losing streak) wouldn’t exactly be ideal for the start of your season. So they needed to rely on everything and everyone to flip the storyline the O’s were hoping to come out of this weekend with.
CC Sabathia got the start today and had a pretty good outing, despite being in the negative once he left the mound. In his 6 innings, Sabthia threw 98 pitches, gave up 6 hits and 4 walks (something he clearly needs to work on this season), struck out just 3 batters, and allowed 3 runs (though just 2 earned). But overall, he actually had a better outing that the Orioles’ starter.
In the 2nd, with runners on the corners and no outs, the next batter hits into a fielder’s choice as the Orioles’ first run scored of the afternoon. Then again with 2 runners on base, a single scored the second run, before Sabathia worked his way out of the inning. A lead-off single in the 5th moved to 2nd on a passed ball, advanced to 3rd on a fly out, and then scored on a single to cap off the Orioles’ runs today.
Actually, the Yankee bullpen grabbed a hold of the necessity of a win and just showed off their dominance we remember from the Rays’ series earlier this week. Clippard, Betances, and Chapman each took an inning in the final third of the game and just sailed through the Orioles’ roster, adding 5 strikeouts between them. Chapman included some 101mph pitches in today’s show just for good measure as the shadows on the field helped mask his delivery and thus fool the batters.
The Yankees’ offense seemed oddly stymied by the Orioles’ starter though they had plenty of opportunities to do something. They certainly worked his pitch count, getting him up to 100 pitches in just 5 innings, but the weird stat today was the 7 allowed walks in those 5 innings. In fact, despite the Yankees loading up the bases and getting runners in scoring position (thanks to those walks) several times, they didn’t even have their first hit until Hicks’ single in the 5th.
It wasn’t until the bullpen opened that the Yankees started dinging into the scoreboard. Up until today, the Orioles’ bullpen was so strong it had yet to allow a run to score this year. Not anymore. The Yankees made sure of that.
In the 6th, with 2 outs, Judge and Romine hit consecutive singles and then scored when RBI-leader Ronald Torreyes smacked a big triple to get the Yankees on the board. Then Aaron Judge tied up the game in one fell swoop with a big solo home run into the left field seats.
But it would be the 9th inning when the Yankees really made the difference. With a seasoned reliever known for quick outs on the mound, the Yankees quickly discovered he was having an off-day and took advantage of it. Holliday led-off with a walk (his 5th of the game, by the way) and was then pinch-run by Ellsbury, who promptly stole 2nd base. Carter then worked a walk, and Starlin Castro hit a nice single up the middle to score Ellsbury for the go-ahead run.
So they made some quick changes, sending the speedier Kozma in to run for Carter as Headley worked a walk to load the bases. Judge hit into a ground out, but all the runners were still able to move up, including Kozma to score the insurance run the Yankees were looking for. Then Austin Romine hit a long sacrifice fly which easily scored Castro, but on a bad throwing error, Headley took advantage and came speeding on home for a bonus run. Torreyes’ singled (for another big offensive day for him, going 3-for-5 today) and the Orioles finally pulled their closer for another reliever who got an easy ground out to end the wild inning.
In total, both pitching staffs allowed 15 walks (11 to Yankee batters). That says either two things happened today — the pitching was just not as good as it should’ve been or the strike zone was miniscule. I’m compelled by the 16 total strikeouts (8 per team) to think it wasn’t the latter, but that certainly doesn’t bode well for the Orioles’ pitching today.
On the other hand, that certainly turned out well for the Yankees, so I’m not complaining that much.
Final score: 7-3 Yankees, Orioles win series 2-1.
In light of Gary Sanchez’s questionable timetable right now, the Yankees made a call in for a back-up catcher. Kyle Higashioka was at dinner, picking at the food on his plate, disappointed after a bad game against the Toronto affiliate in Buffalo that afternoon, when he got the call to get himself to Baltimore. In mere moments, his whole life changed. This was his first major league call-up, so he stopped to pay his check, tip his waiter well, and then just drove straight from Buffalo to Baltimore (a 6 hour and 350 mile trip) right away. He made it into the team hotel about 2am and was suited up, ready to play for his team this morning.
And now, he’ll be on the field during introductions tomorrow afternoon in pinstripes, the number 38 on his back, as Yankee fans cheer their 2017 team before the home opener against the Rays. A dream come true for Higashioka and a number of other young players that will join him along that 1st base line tomorrow.
There’s nothing like Opening Day at Yankee Stadium.