The losing streak extends to three games. Even worse, the Yankees lost Gary Sanchez to injury. The early going has been rough in 2017, and this game captured it all. Masahiro Tanaka struggled with command, the injury bug struck, and the bullpen faltered. It was a bad afternoon of baseball as the Yankees dropped the game, and the series, by a score of 5 - 4.
After having no answer for him in 2016, the Yankees finally got to Kevin Gausman. The Bombers struck first in the second inning. Chase Headley got things started by drawing a one-out walk. Aaron Hicks, playing in place of Aaron Judge, followed up with a booming first-pitch double off of the wall. For a moment I thought it had a chance to go out. With runners on second and third, hit machine Ronald Torreyes came through by tapping an RBI single through the right side of the infield. Two runs scored as Hicks avoided the play at the plate, but Torreyes was thrown out attempting to advance to second base. He got the job done, nonetheless. Brett Gardner picked up a two-out single of his own, later advancing to third on a combination stolen base and E2, but Sanchez struck out to end the inning. Just like that though the Yankees had a 2 - 0 lead.
The Yankees made Gausman pay again in the fifth inning. Austin Romine drew a leadoff walk after filling in for the injured Sanchez, more on that later. Gausman quickly struck out Matt Holliday and forced Gardner to popup to second base, securing the inning’s first two outs. The Yankees didn’t go down quietly, however, as Jacoby Ellsbury picked up a base hit to right field, moving Romine to third. That extra base proved important as Gausman’s pickoff move to third base was ruled a balk, allowing Romine to score. A Starlin Castro RBI single drove Gausman from the game and expanded their lead to 4 - 1. Unfortunately those turned out to be the final runs scored by the Yankees.
As for the Orioles, they got on the board in the fourth inning. Manny Machado worked a leadoff walk to get things going. Chris Davis launched a ball into left field that looked like trouble, only a diving catch by Gardner prevented any damage. Tanaka then struck out Mark Trumbo on a pitch in the dirt, but Machado advanced to second on a stolen base. That proved costly as he scored on a broken bat single by Welington Castillo, cutting the Yankees’ lead in half.
Hyun Soo Kim followed with an infield single before Jonathan Schoop was hit by a pitch. Tanaka then found himself in a two-out bases loaded situation with the number nine hitter, J.J. Hardy, at the plate. Hardy tapped a grounder back to Tanaka, who flipped the ball to Sanchez for the force out at home. Tanaka worked himself into trouble but managed to escape real danger.
Things appeared to fall apart for Tanaka in the fifth inning. Smith lead off with a single to center field after an 11-pitch at bat. I thought Ellsbury could have come up with it, but they just drop in sometimes. Tanaka proceeded to hit Jones with a pitch before serving up an RBI double to Machado, who launched one off of the right field wall to make it a 4 - 2 game.
Tanaka continued to battle his command as he walked Davis on four pithes. Mark Trumbo, the fifth batter of the inning, hit into a fielder’s choice to cut the lead to one. The first base umpire originally ruled that Trumbo grounded into a double play, but the call was overturned after a look at the replay. Tanaka then walked Castillo to load the bases. He escaped further trouble by striking out Kim and forcing Schoop to popup to Romine. It was a tight inning for the Yankees ace, but he departed with a 4 - 3 lead.
For his part, Tanaka looked slightly better than he did on Opening Day. His command improved, but it wasn’t the same level of precision we’re used to seeing from the Yankees ace. There are clearly things to iron out. Nevertheless, it’s a step in the right direction. Tanaka’s a smart pitcher, and I’m confident that he’ll keep moving forward.
Unfortunately the Yankees bullpen couldn’t preserve the lead. Adam Warren retired the four batters he faced, but Joe Girardi looked for the platoon advantage against Davis in the seventh inning. He brought in Tommy Layne, who promptly served up a double to the man they call Crush. Girardi then called on Dellin Betances to escape the jam, but an RBI single by Trumbo tied the game. The Orioles took the lead on another RBI single, this time off the bat of Kim. For the second time in two games the Yankees bullpen broke down costing the team the game. That’s not how the front office drew it up in the offseason.
On the other side, the bullpen combination of Brad Brach and Zach Britton kept the Yankees off of the board. Britton converted his 52nd consecutive save. The Orioles continue extend their winning streak to four, while the Yankees drop to 1 - 4.
We end with good news and bad news. The good news is that Holliday picked up his 2,000th career hit in the the first inning. He’s the first batter to collect 2,000 hits as a Yankee since Alfonso Soriano in 2013. Big congratulations to Holliday.
The bad news is that Sanchez suffered a right bicep strain in the fifth inning. He worked a 3-2 count on Gausman before departing with the injury. He tried to take a practice swing but grimaced in pain. According to Bryan Hoch, Sanchez will hit the 10-day disabled list. Kyle Higashioka will be called up. There’s no timetable for Sanchez’s return.
The Yankees look to avoid the sweep tomorrow afternoon. CC Sabathia draws Wade Miley in a battle of the southpaws. First pitch is scheduled for 1:35 PM and can be seen on YES or MLB Network for out-of-market viewers.