For a little while there, it seemed like the Yankees would finally get their first series victory of the year. Sure, Nathan Eovaldi only went five innings, but the team bullpen had been terrific over the first week with a 1.73 ERA as a group entering tonight. Unfortunately, such streaks of solid relief can only last so long, regardless of whether it's the 1996 Yankees or the 2013 Astros.
The Orioles got the early edge on the game when they tallied the first run in the bottom of the first on a string of singles by Everth Cabrera, Travis Snider, and Chris Davis. Eovaldi fanned Manny Machado to end the inning, and after a couple more strikeouts in the second, the offense gave him some support. Bud Norris allowed just one hit in his first run through the lineup, but Jacoby Ellsbury smoked a two-out double over Adam Jones's head in center. Norris then caused more problems by walking Chase Headley. Given Carlos Beltran's early struggles, it felt like the inning was already over. Fortunately, he surprised by slugging a long double to right-center field that very nearly went over the wall for a three-run homer. Instead, the Yankees took the two-run double and had a 2-1 lead.
One inning later, Alex Rodriguez absolutely unloaded on a flat Norris pitch. Career home run number 656 was a bomb:
.@AROD: Blast off! http://t.co/HZbW3X1OYT pic.twitter.com/0qttzJMAg1— New York Yankees (@Yankees) April 16, 2015
Manny Machado countered with a solo shot of his own to cut the Yankees' lead to 3-2. Eovaldi pitched in and out of trouble through five innings. It wasn't the prettiest performance since he threw 101 pitches and allowed 11 baserunners to reach, but he did generate plenty more swings and misses than he did in his previous start. Of the 15 Oriole outs against Eovaldi, nine came on strikeouts, one shy of his career-high set last May. He used his breaking ball to get a number of them, and that's definitely a good sign.
Joe Girardi turned to the bullpen which had been so reliable to him early on, hoping that he could string together a few more innings and maybe some insurance runs for the wins. Sadly, that wasn't meant to be, as the sixth inning was an absolute tire fire. David Carpenter immediately surrendered the lead on a homer by apparent Yankee-killer Jonathan Schoop, and Alejandro De Aza followed with a single to left. Cabrera bunted him over, and the Yanks elected to intentionally walk the red-hot Jones. In came lefty Justin Wilson, who really didn't that many bad pitches. Baseball's a weird game though, so pinch-hitter Delmon Young (of course) smoked the go-ahead single to left, and Davis went the opposite way for a two-run double. That was all for Wilson, and to cap things off, Caleb Joseph smacked an RBI single off Chris Martin. When the dust had settled, the O's were on top, 7-3.
To the offense's credit, the hitters stayed in this game after rookie Branden Pinder held the fort with a scoreless seventh in his MLB debut (albeit with some help on a pop-up bunt double play). Tommy Hunter entered in the eighth and pitched like the Tommy Hunter who gave up a grand slam to Stephen Drew. Headley singled, Mark Teixeira doubled to right, and Brian McCann scored Headley on a sacrifice fly. Teixeira then came home on a wild pitch, though Hunter did fan A-Rod to end the inning. The Yanks also put the tying run on base and had the go-ahead run at the plate with two outs in the ninth against closer Zach Britton, but Headley bounced into a fielder's choice to end. It certainly didn't help that the rookie home plate umpire Sean Barber had a horrid strike zone tonight. Whatever.
So the Yankees will head into the off-day with a 3-6 record and still no series victories. They return to action on Friday night at the Trop, as they take on the Rays for three games beginning at 7:05 EST. Now if you'll excuse me, there's probably some bleach somewhere that has my name on it.