It's a very long season, and it is still very early, but this one felt good. There are only a finite number of chances to beat a team in your division, the defending divisional champions in this case, so every game like this is crucial. Even in April.
The Yankees sent one of their best pitchers out, Michael Pineda, to face off against Wei-Yin Chen. The Yankees struck first in the second inning, when Chris Young smashed a solo home run, and that gave the Yankees a one-run lead. But that lead was quickly erased, as the Orioles struck back for two runs on two RBI doubles from Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop in the second inning. A throw from Brett Gardner seemed to catch Schoop at second base, but the call was reversed as Schoop got his hand on the base before the tag touched his jersey. Luckily, that overturned call did not materialize into anything larger.
The Yankees came back to even the score in the fourth, when Mark Teixeira hit his third home run of the year and 366th of his career:
And right after the Yankees tied it up, Pineda settled in for quite a while, allowing only one hit between the third and fifth innings. But when he came out for the sixth, a few missed locations almost spoiled the game. He allowed a leadoff double to Alejandro De Aza to start off the inning, and it seemed like he could get out of the inning unscathed after forcing a ground out from Steve Pearce and striking out Chris Davis. But Adam Jones decided to do what he does so well, and he hit a booming two-run home run to give the Orioles a 4-2 lead.
And we've seen this story so many times, especially in 2013 and 2014. The Yankees stay competitive for a while, but a late push from the opposing team and a listless offense squanders their hopes. But at least for tonight, it was different. Tommy Hunter relieved Chen in the seventh, and he quickly started the inning by allowing a single to Chris Young and then walking John Ryan Murphy. Hunter almost worked his way out of trouble by getting both Didi Gregorius and Garrett Jones to fly out, but Jacoby Ellsbury hit a single to load the bases. And then stepped up Stephen Drew. Drew was forced to enter the game as a pinch-hitter to replace Brett Gardner, who had exited the game with a stiff right wrist after getting hit by a pitch (His X-Ray came back negative). Drew then did something that only 21 Yankees have done before him: he hit a pinch-hit grand slam:
(The last Yankee to hit a pinch-hit grand slam was Jorge Posada on June 6, 2001, by the way).
And with a 6-4 lead, Michael Pineda came out to try to finish seven innings. Unfortunately, he wasn't able to after he allowed singles to Manny Machado and Everth Cabrera. The final line on Michael Pineda is: six and one third innings pitched, nine hits, five earned runs, no walks, and nine strikeouts. I'm not a huge fan of the earned run total, but I'll take a strikeout-to-walk ratio of infinity.
The Yankees then turned to Dellin Betances. Betances has dealt with some serious control problems in the past month, and they didn't go away here. He allowed a single to Caleb Joseph, allowed one run via a De Aza fielder's choice, walked Steve Pearce, and luckily got out of trouble by striking out Chris Davis.
And when Betances came out for the eighth, Joe Girardi pulled him quite early, right after he allowed a single to Adam Jones and walked Travis Snider. For someone who had plus control in 2014, it's pretty nonexistent right now. Here's to hoping it returns.
Girardi turned to Andrew Miller for a five-out save in April, and that shows you how much he values a divisional win. Miller struck out Machado and Schoop to end the eighth, and then he shut it down in the ninth.
The Yankees will take on the Orioles once again tomorrow night, as CC Sabathia will take on Miguel Gonzalez. The game will start at 7:05 PM EST, and you can catch it on YES, MLB.tv, or WFAN.