At first, it looked like the Orioles were intent on punishing their front office for not making any deals at the non-waiver trade deadline. Very shortly thereafter, it looked like the players were rewarding those in the warehouse for standing pat. And the rewards kept coming last night in New York, as the Orioles turned on a dime in a come from behind, 11-5 win over the Yankees.
When he took the mound, O’s starter Chris Tillman was sick with flu-like symptoms. Before he threw his third pitch, O’s starter Chris Tillman (W, 4-1) was in trouble. By the time he faced his third batter, the Yankees were on the board, and Orioles Nation was starting to feel like the illness was contagious.
Derek Jeter doubled on an 0-1 cutter to start the Yankees first. Curtis Granderson drove him in a single to right, and before the Yankees made an out, they were up 1-0.
When Robinson Cano homered (23) deep into the right field seats, it looked like it was going to be a very long night. And it was. For the Yankees.
Two of the next three Yankees picked up base hits. With one out and runners on first and third, Ichiro Suzuki hit a comebacker to Tillman that should’ve been a double play to get Tillman out of the inning. Instead, the ball popped out of Tillman’s glove and rolled away from him. Raul Ibanez scored making it 4-0 Yankees.
A Russell Martin single to left plated Eric Chavez, and the Yankees led 5-0 after one inning.
In the dugout, the Orioles had to have a sense that, with 24 outs to play with, maybe they could find a way to claw back into this thing. They would do so and more—MUCH more, all inside just 3 outs.
Adam Jones led off the O’s second with a base hit to center. Matt Wieters followed with a single to right. But when Yankees starter Ivan Nova (L, 10-5) struck out both Lew Ford and Wilson Betemit, it looked like he may escape any damage. That possibility became a huge probability when Nova jumped ahead of strikeout poster child Mark Reynolds, 0-2. But on the third pitch of the at-bat, Reynolds lined a shot just fair down the left field line for a run-scoring ground rule double, making it 5-1.
Next up was Omar Quintanilla, who scooted a ground ball single past Nova and into center, scoring both Wieters and Reynolds. Nick Markakis singled. JJ Hardy walked on four pitches, and the bases were loaded with two outs for Chris Davis.
Davis wasted little time. After falling behind in the count 0-1, he picked on a curve ball away, put a smooth, easy swing on it, and launched it over the wall in left-center. Davis’18th home run was his first career grand slam, and capped a seven-run, two-out rally that gave the Orioles the lead for good.
The birds piled on a bit in the third. With one out, Lew Ford picked up his first hit in the major leagues since 2007, a double over Granderson’s head in center. Betemit doubled down the right field line, plating Ford for an 8-5 lead.
Tillman suddenly got nasty. He would retire 12 of the next 14 Yankees, holding them at the five he spotted them, through five innings of work. Six of the eight hits, and all five of the runs (4 earned) scored against him came in the first. He struck out only three, but a major key to his success was that he did not walk a batter. It won’t go down officially as a quality start, but let’s not let that technicality redefine what those words really mean. After the first, Tillman’s start was as “quality” as you’re ever going to find.
His teammates would come to his aid offensively one more time before he left. Jones began the fifth with his 25th double of the year. Nova would retire the next two Orioles, including Lew Ford, whose fly out to right allowed Jones to move to third. Betemit stepped in and delivered a clutch, two-out hit to right, tacking on what, at the time, looked like a very big insurance run. The O’s were up 9-5 on the Yankees.
Troy Patton replaced Tillman for a two-inning stint that got interesting in the seventh. Derek Jeter led off with a hit, and Patton struck out Granderson. Cano was hit by a pitch, moving Jeter to second. Nick Swisher tapped out slowly to Hardy at short, advancing the runners to second and third. That set up just the kind of moment Orioles fans dread. How many times over the years have we seen a lead at Yankee Stadium—either of them—slip away late in the game on a two-out rally thanks to some fluke, broken bat bloop, hit batter, slow-roller, fielding error, blown call…whatever? And, ALWAYS it seems, that guy named Jeter was somewhere in the middle of it. And, there he was (albeit at third base, where his run didn’t necessarily mean much). And up to the plate strode Raul Ibanez, with Eric Chavez, the potential tying run, moving on deck.
Patton reached back for a little extra. The four hardest pitches he threw to any of the nine batters he faced Tuesday night, he threw to Ibanez: A 91 MPH fastball…called strike one. A pair of 92 MPH fastballs away, fouled off. And finally, another 92 MPH, two-seemed heater, waved at and missed by the slugger. The final score will never tell the truth about how big this at-bat was.
These young Orioles are not supposed to be where they are today. No one ever expected that, on July’s last night, they’d be playing meaningful games; that they’d come into Yankee Stadium with a shot—a genuine, real chance—to, not just grab a Wild Card spot, but win the American League East; that, with the likes of Lew Ford and Omar Quintanilla in their starting lineup, they’d be able to take a 5-run smack in the face, and turn around and, before their next 3 outs, give better than they got…to the New York Yankees in Yankee Stadium. Make a trade at the deadline? Why? Robert Andino’s coming off the disabled list! Lace ‘em up…let’s go!
The Orioles put a little more padding on the board in the eighth. Betemit led off with his second double (16) and third hit of the night. Andino pinch ran for him, and one out later, moved to third on a ground out. With Markakis stepping in, Yankees manager Joe Girardi went to the bullpen for former Oriole Clay Rapada. Markakis turned on a slider that hung in the inner half of the plate from the sidewinder, and sent it into the right field short porch for a two-run home run (10), and an 11-5 lead.
Matt Lindstrom came on and pitched a perfect eighth, and Luis Ayala a perfect ninth, and the Orioles walked out of Yankee Stadium with a chance to sweep a set in New York with a win Wednesday afternoon. Zach Britton (1-0, 5.74) goes for the O’s against Yankees right hander Phil Hughes (10-8, 4.08). Game time is scheduled for 1:05.
- A very gutsy effort from Tillman. With the exception of one inning this year, Tillman has started to really separate himself from the rest of the young arms that are (or were) in the rotation, in that he’s shown the ability to overcome adversity. He didn’t have his best stuff Tuesday. He didn’t feel well. He gave up five in the first in New York. But he was able to pitch through it all. Sure, getting the seven spot from his teammates in the second didn’t hurt, but the game was still in the balance for his entire outing. Plus, he stayed on long enough to not completely bury the bullpen for Wednesday. His 95-pitch effort was very clutch.
- The only O’s starter without a hit was Hardy. Markakis and Betemit had three apiece, and Jones added two.
- Chris Davis’ first career grand slam was the games big blow. He finished with an interesting line, including three strikeouts. How often can someone say they struck out three times, and still had more RBIs than strikeouts?