Just when their push for the playoffs was starting to get very interesting, the Yankees dropped a big game to the Orioles. New York had a chance to move within 1.5 games of the second Wild Card spot in the AL, but an offense that exploded for 27 runs in the first two games of this series suddenly went silent. CC Sabathia pitched well but was out-dueled by Kevin Gausman, and the Yankees fell 5-0.
The Yankees squandered their most significant opportunity in the fourth. Gary Sanchez singled to lead off the inning, but got thrown out trying to go first to third on Mark Teixeira's single. A Didi Gregorius single put two runners on with one out, but Starlin Castro grounded into a fielder's choice and Brian McCann struck out swinging to end the inning. Gausman ran his fastball up to 98 mph to whiff McCann.
While the offense struggled to score, Sabathia was strong. Pushed up one day to take advantage of Baltimore's problems with left-handed pitchers, Sabathia strung together a second consecutive solid start after tossing seven innings of one-run ball against the Mariners earlier in the week.
Sabathia stymied the Orioles for most of the day, striking out eight and walking two. Sabathia has demonstrated a real ability to induce weak contact this year, and he continued that today, allowing only a handful of well-struck batted balls across the afternoon.
The first run he allowed came in the sixth, when Steve Pearce started the inning with a solo shot to left. Pearce was likely slotted into the leadoff spot of the lineup due to his career .846 OPS against left-handers, and the move paid off.
Sabathia couldn't evade trouble in the seventh. A pair of singles, one of them a seeing-eye infield hit, and a walk loaded the bases with two outs, and Sabathia was removed for Adam Warren. Warren allowed a base hit up the middle to Pearce, scoring two runs to make it 3-0.
On the other side, Gausman cruised. He blanked the Yankees over seven innings, striking out nine without walking a batter. It continued Gausman's stretch of dominance against the Yankees, as he has a 1.30 ERA in four starts this year against New York. The Yankees had few chances against Gausman, and when they did, Gausman kept them in line, holding the Yankees hitless in five at-bats with runners in scoring position.
Ben Heller came on to start the eighth for his second MLB relief appearance and was greeted rudely by the Baltimore offense. Machado notched his third single of the game to start the inning, and Mark Trumbo followed up by smoking a line drive home run to left-center for a 5-0 lead. It was Trumbo's 40th homer of the season, tops in MLB.
The loss leaves the Yankees 3.5 games back in the Wild Card hunt, and it ends their four game winning streak. A sweep of the Orioles would have thrust New York into the thick of the race, but instead they must start another winning streak in order to continue making up ground. They'll have a chance to do so tomorrow when they begin a series against the Royals, one of the several other teams competing for the Wild Card. Michael Pineda will be on the mound as the Yankees try to restart their playoff push.