Game 49: NYY vs. BAL — Strong start leads to victory

Okay, after yesterday’s loss, my time line was filled with stats that mirrored the fact that the Yankees have a terrible losing streak in Camden Yards, something I’ve found rather frustrating in the last five years of this blog. There was a blog I read years ago that talked about the “voodoo magic” of the evil “blackbirds” (referencing the Orioles mascot) due to their losing stats in Baltimore. And honestly, every time the Yankees play there, that does echo through my mind.

And the funny thing was that leading into tonight’s game, I read several statistics in my newsfeed that talked about how the Yankees are the only AL team with a winning record on the road, joining 7 NL teams with such a distinction. Maybe it was a sign, but I trust omens (even supposedly voodoo birds), especially in baseball. But as hindsight is 20/20, I can see how someone could think it was such a superstitious harbinger.

But I put my belief in tonight’s success on the outstanding performances by the players in this middle game against the Orioles. Like tonight’s starter Luis Severino, who threw 100 pitches into the 7th inning and didn’t allow a run until the 6th. Overall, he gave up 7 hits, a walk, and a run, and struck out an impressive 8 batters. You just knew it was going to be a good night for the pitcher after his 9-pitch 1st inning.

In the 6th, Severino gave up a lead-off single who moved to 2nd on a 1-out walk and then to 3rd on a 2-out single. With the bases loaded and 2 outs, Severino needed to get out of the jam to remain scoreless, but a slow grounder to short became a single with a late throw to 1st and all the runners advancing, including the Orioles’ first run of the night to break Severino’s scoreless outing. Severino pulled it together in the end to get out of the jam with a great strikeout.

So, after 1 out in the 7th and 100 pitches, Severino’s night was done. Layne and Warren each took an out to complete the inning and keep the strong start continuing into the last bit of the game. But Bryan Mitchell’s 8th inning had issues from the start. A throwing error allowed the lead runner to end up all the way at 2nd, something that seemed to rattle the normally unflappable Mitchell. Two outs and a walk later, Mitchell gave up 2 singles that scored both runners.

As Mitchell wasn’t going to get it done tonight, the Yankees turned to the ever-reliable Tyler Clippard to close out the game, looking for a 4-out (non-save) close. Clippard needed just 2 pitches to end the 8th and just 7 to breeze his way through the 9th to shut out the Orioles, helping add to the Yankees strikeout total of 11 tonight.

But the starting pitching wasn’t the only thing that was strong tonight. The Yankees offense certainly showed off for the first half of the game, withe Orioles starter and first reliever getting really roughed up. In the 1st, Brett Gardner led-off the game with a big home run, and one out later, Matt Holliday copied with his own solo home run. (Both batters hitting their 10th homer of the season in just that inning.)

In the 2nd, Gregorius led-off with a double and then scored on Aaron Hicks’ single. Holliday led-off the 3rd inning with another solo home run, his 2nd of the night and 11th of the season. Then Judge hit a 1-out single and Hicks worked a 2-out walk. Judge scored on Chase Headley’s single, which spelled the end of the Orioles’ starter’s night.

The first reliever got out of the jam that inning, but got into his own trouble in the next. Gardner led-off with another home run, his 3rd game this season with multiple homers. (Comparatively, the rest of the team combined only have 4 games with multiple homers.) Sanchez and Castro singled to get on base and then scored on Aaron Judge’s just-shy-of-a-home-run doubledouble to cap off the Yankees offensive dominance tonight in just the 4th inning.

It was more than enough tonight.

Final score: 8-3 Yankees

Injury updates: Greg Bird is scheduled to join the Tampa Yankees on Thursday at Steinbrenner Field against the Charlotte Stone Crabs (the Rays Single-A team, and yes, you read that right — “stone crabs”). As far as a timeline, there’s nothing set yet. They’ll want to see how he (and his ankle) handle the game again.

Bird will be joining fellow 1st baseman Tyler Austin in Tampa. Girardi mentioned in a recent interview that due to Austin’s missed Spring, he is looking at about 50 at-bats (roughly 7-8 full games) before he could be cleared to join the team and make his 2017 debut, if there’s room for him. There is a bit of chatter that they’ll start Austin this season in AAA Scranton to ease him into the big leagues, but with Bird still out and an unsure timeline, that may just be “chatter”.

And in better news, Jacoby Ellsbury is feeling much better, saying today was the first day he woke up without a headache. Concussions aren’t something you just bounce back from, nor are they something you take lightly. However, he is clearly recovering, and at this pace, he is aiming to be back by weekend series in Toronto.

There was a brief moment when the Yankees were concerned after Didi Gregorius was hit by a pitch on the hand in the 9th inning, but the x-rays were negative. Looks like he’ll be nursing a bit of a bruise for a few days, but fortunately nothing more serious.

Despite all these injured players, the Yankees aren’t limping along. No, they’re excelling. Because that’s who they are this season. Some years, it’s a fall-back to blame “all the injuries”, but clearly, it’s just an excuse. These Yankees are in it to win it, and nothing’s going to trip them up. Not even some superstitious avian supposition.

But there’s always tomorrow in Baltimore…

Go Yankees!

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