It sure looked for a while like the usually reliable Wei-Yin Chen was going to shut down the Yankees offense altogether Friday night at Camden Yards. The lefty retired 9 of the forst 10 Yankees he faced through three innings, giving up just a softly-hit pop fly base hit to Alex Rodriguez in so doing. The rapidity at which things fell apart left Orioles Nation—a large chunk of which was at Camden Yards to see the O’s try to wrestle first place in the AL East from its perennial owners—stunned.
In a scoreless game, Chen hit Nick Swisher with a pitch leading off the fourth. He then walked Robinson Cano on four pitches, and suddenly, Wei-Yin Chen was doing a fine Pedro Strop imitation. One out later, Chen threw a brutal, 85 MPH, above-the-belt changeup to Russell Martin. The Yankees catcher deposited it into the left field seats, and the Yankees were up 3-0. One out later, Andruw Jones singled, bringing up Steve Pearce.
To say the man who started at first base for the Yankees Friday night has had a bizarre season is to say political ads sometimes aren’t truthful. Pearce signed with the Twins this past offseason, and was cut loose before Opening Day. Pearce began the season in Scranton, the Yankees Triple-A club. The Yankees picked him up, but shipped him to Baltimore in early June. He contributed as an Oriole, too, hitting .254 with 3 homers and 14 RBI in 28 games. On July 21, the day after acquiring Omar Quintanilla from the Mets, the Orioles designated Pearce for assignment. The Houston Astros picked Pearce off the scrap heap seven days later, and after 21 games and a .254 average there, on August 27 (the same day Mark Teixeira last played), the Yankees bought him from Houston. For guys who live life as the 25th man, it’s best to sign short-term leases.
Chen’s first pitch to his one-time teammate was a 91 MPH fastball, thigh-high, at the center of the plate. Pearce hammered it deep to left. Left fielder Nate McLouth tracked the high fly back to the wall, using tiny, choppy steps just before a perfectly timed leap. His effort came up short, and Pearce had two runs worth of revenge, giving the Yanks a 5-0 lead.
Chen left after yielding another homer—a two-run shot to Alex Rodriguez—in the fifth, with the Orioles down 7-0. But the birds would show life.
In the bottom of the sixth, JJ Hardy reached on an error. Nate McLouth, already 2/2 on the day, just missed a home run to right. The ball hit the top of the out-of-town scoreboard, and McLouth dove into second with his 2nd double of the game. Yanks starter Phil Hughes (W, 14-12) then saw his 92 MPH first pitch to Adam Jones turned around, with Jones sending it deep into left center for home run number 29. It was 7-3.
Cody Epply replaced Hughes to start the seventh, and got Manny Machado for out number one. But Robert Andino ripped a flat, 88 MPH fastball way back into the left field seats for a homer (7), and it was 7-4.
Both the Yanks and Orioles scored one each in the ninth, the O’s on Machado’s fourth home run, and the Yankees moved up into sole possession of first place in the AL East, 1 up on the Orioles, with the 8-5 win.
Series game three happens at 7:05 Saturday night. Joe Saunders (7-11/1-1, 4.26/4.63) faces C.C. Sabathia (13-4, 3.42).
- Steve Johnson stepped in and gave the Orioles offense a chance to get back in the game: 3IP, 1H, 3K, 0ER.
- McLouth: 3-4, 2 2b, 1R.
- Machado: 2/4, 1HR, 1R, 1RBI.
- Weird how Chen suddenly hit a wall. His final line: 4.2IP, 6H, 3HR, 7ER, 4K, 1BB.
- The O’s offense missed a golden, first-inning opportunity. McLouth’s first double moved Hardy to third with one out, but Jones popped to second, and Wieters lined to center, and Hughes escaped trouble.