This weekend the Yankees played a three game series against the Baltimore Orioles and boy was it a rough one to watch. It seems like every single year this team gets off to a bad start. Let’s just hope this April isn’t as bad as the last one.
Friday: Yankees 5, Orioles 6
The Yankees were up 5-1 at the halfway point of this game. The the offense looked good and starting pitcher Luis Severino was going strong having allowed just one run through 4 IP. He was throwing hard and using his changeup pretty effectively, which is exactly what we wanted to see. Then, with two outs and a man on in the bottom of the fifth, Sevy walked OF Adam Jones. Adam Jones, the guy with the 4.5% career walk rate. It was Severino’s lone walk of the game, but it cost him big, as instead of getting Jones out and ending the inning, he had two guys on based with Manny Machado coming up to the plate. Machado made him pay, as he does, by launching a 3-run home run to bring the O’s within 1.
Severino managed to get out of the inning with the lead intact, but it was his last of the evening. He finished with 5 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 1 BB, and 6 K. Joe Girardi then handed the game over to the at that time shutdown Yankees bullpen. Holder and Layne combined for a perfect inning, but then in the seventh inning the bullpen’s scoreless streak came to an end. Jonathan Schoop reached second due to a throwing error by Chase Headley, J.J. Hardy bunted him over to third, and then Seth Smith hit the go-ahead two-run home run. That was that. The O’s bullpen retired the Yanks 6 up and 6 down in the eighth and ninth to seal the deal.
To make matters worse, Greg Bird had to leave the game late due to discomfort in his right ankle. That’s the same ankle he fouled a pitch off of in a March 30 Grapefruit League game against the Phillies. Apparently it’s been bothering him all season, which could explain his sub-par hitting so far. The good news is x-rays came back negative, so it looks like he’s just a little banged up. Hopefully with some rest he’ll be good as new in a few days.
There were a couple Yankees highlights this game. Both Matt Holliday and Gary Sanchez hit their first home runs of the season. Both of them were 2-run shots off Ubaldo Jiminez.
Nice to see some balls flying off of bats that don’t belong to Ronald Torreyes.
Saturday: Yankees 4, Orioles 5
More Blown leads! In a near carbon copy of Friday night’s game, the Yankees had the lead 4-1 going into the bottom of the fifth inning. Starter Masahiro Tanaka was absolutely dealing. His pitch count was low, he was striking guys out and inducing a lot of weak contact. When guys were reaching, it was pretty much exclusively on bloop singles or infield hits. It was a completely different Tanaka than the one we saw in the opener.
But then the fifth happened. Seth Smith singled on a line drive to center, Tanaka plunked Adam Jones, Manny Machado hit an RBI double, Chris Davis walked, and Mark Trumbo drove in a run on a fielder’s choice. Tanaka would go on to walk Wellington Castillo as well before ending an inning in which he threw 30+ pitches. The first four innings were primetime Tanaka. The fifth inning was anything but.
Adam Warren came in from the bullpen and pitched a shutout sixth inning, not much unlike Friday’s game. Warren also started off the seventh, but with the left-handed hitting Chris Davis coming up to the plate, Girardi opted to pull Warren and bring in southpaw Tommy Layne. Davis doubled, and Layne got pulled for Dellin Betances. Betances allowed an RBI single to Mark Trumbo, who stole second (!), and then was driven in by a Hyun Soo Kim single. And that was that. The Orioles took a 5-4 lead and never looked back. The O’s bullpen pitched a shutout eighth and ninth and took another win from the Yanks.
Of note is the fact that Baltimore stole 2 bases in the game on Saturday after having stolen 19 bases total in all of 2016. The last time they stole 2 bases in a game was October 1….2015.
Piling on to the Friday night parallels, Gary Sanchez had to leave the game in the fifth with an apparent injury after taking a hard swing in an at-bat. He tried taking another swing right after and winced. That was enough for the team to take him out of there. The official diagnosis is a right bicep strain, and Sanchez has been placed on the 10-day DL. With James Kaprielian and Bird both being sidelined with injuries already, this is an especially hard pill to swallow. The only thing the Yankees and Sanchez can do now though is wait for as long as it takes until he’s 100% again. There’s no use rushing him back into game action and risk hurting him even more. It’s not like the Yankees are really competing this season anyway. At least they aren’t playing like it (Sorry, it’s just been a rough weekend. I don’t mean that. I know they’re trying very hard.).
Sunday: Yankees 7, Orioles 3
Finally, something good to come out of the weekend, although it didn’t start off that way. This game was looking more like the first two of the series until the sixth inning, at which point the Yankees were down 3-0. Orioles’s starter Wade Miley had allowed 7 walks in the five previous innings and the Yankees had managed to do absolutely nothing with all of the opportunities that were basically being handed over to them. They finished the game 2-10 with RISP and it was largely due to those first five innings.
Then in the sixth Aaron Judge hit a scorching line drive single to left. This wasn’t just any scorching line drive single though. This particular scorching line drive single landed at the base of the left field wall. Judge hit it so unbelievably hard though that it was already in the fielder’s glove by the time he got to first. You want some Statcast data? Well here it comes. The ball left Judge’s bat at an exit velocity of 115.9 MPH, the fourth fastest so far this season. At a launch angle of 17.3 degrees, it traveled 342 ft before bouncing off the left field wall. It was one of the most impressive singles you’ll ever see.
Austine Romine followed Judge with a single of his own, bringing Ronald Torreyes to the plate, that’s right, Yankees slugger Ronald Toreyes, who belted a ball deep to right field that landed in for a 2 RBI triple, putting the team on the board. Signs of life.
The Orioles got out of that inning, but then in the top of the eighth, the Yanks still down by one, Judge came back up to the plate, and this happened:
Now this might sound crazy, but that ball wasn’t nearly as well hit as the single. I mean look at it. It comes off the end of the bat. You barely even hear a pop. Judge is just so ridiculously strong that he’s still able to take that pitch yard to tie up the game.
Betances shut down the O’s in the eighth, and then between walks, hits, and errors the top of the ninth was an absolute free-for-all for the Yankees as they scored 4 runs, allowing them to turn the ball over to Aroldis Chapman in the bottom of the inning to seal the victory.
A couple notes of interest. Although he didn’t play, this was C Kyle Higashioka’s first major league game in pinstripes after nearly a decade in the Yankees farm system. After Sanchez got put on the DL, apparently Higashioka got the call from the team while he was out to dinner with his wife in Buffalo. He got in a car almost immediately and was in Baltimore by 2 a.m. the day of the game. I can’t even imagine how exciting that must have been for him. Hopefully he gets to see a little game action soon.
Also of note, Matt Holliday walked 5 times in Sunday’s game in 5 plate appearances. Not only is he just 1 of about 100 MLB players to walk 5 times in one game, but he’s 1 of 20 players to do so in 5 plate appearances, and 1 of 12 to do so without getting walked intentionally at all. Wild stuff.
So yeah, not a great weekend for the Yankees overall with the losses and the injuries, but at least they ended it on a high note. Today is the home opener against the Rays. The game starts at 1:05 EST. Preview to come.