Through five innings, tonight’s game appeared to be a rather predictable letdown. Coming off an impressive series win at home to seize first place from the Rays, the Yankees hit the road — literally — as a mechanical problem with their chartered flight forced them to take a late bus to Baltimore. It seemed the team was still fast asleep until midway through the contest, when they awoke to find themselves trailing the last place Orioles 6-1. FanGraphs gave New York just a 2.6% chance of victory.
But run by run, the Yankees slowly clawed their way back, until — down one heading into the ninth — their inexplicable magic was on full display again. It all added up to a 10-7 win, one that revealed a team with justified championship aspirations.
Orioles show true colors
“Man, this is some shaky defense!” Ken Singleton, for one, couldn’t believe Baltimore’s three defensive miscues that enabled the Yankees to ultimately steal the game. But for Orioles fans, who have watched their team start the season 15-32, it was hardly a surprise. The final miscue — a two-out popup that dropped mere feet from home plate — enabled a Luke Voit walk and set the stage for the team’s quarter-season MVP Gary Sanchez. The Kraken did not disappoint, belting the go-ahead three-run blast that proved the difference.
Defensively, it was an ugly game all-around. The Yankees committed two errors of their own, including a Gio Urshela bobble that forced the tying run to the plate. But that was all the adrenaline Aroldis Chapman needed. He dialed it up to 101 mph on the game’s final pitch to strike out his third batter of the inning, earn his 12th save, and seal the Yankees’ ninth straight win at Camden Yards. Chapman has answered the doubters and then some after his major velocity concerns in April, evidenced by his sparkling 1.93 ERA.
Another Happ-less outing
Before those heroics, of course, the Bombers were on the verge of being blown out. J.A. Happ, who looked to be getting his act together following some early season struggles, turned in his worst outing of the year in his fourth meeting already with the O’s. The veteran hurler surrendered six runs — all earned — on nine hits in 3.2 innings. He has now allowed the Orioles 15 runs in 2019, the same total that he’s allowed all other teams combined, while his overall ERA now stands at 5.16 through 10 starts.
It seems Happ did not read tonight’s game thread, where I predicted that the two keys to a Yankee victory would be 1) limiting Renato Núñez and 2) getting off to an early lead. The southpaw defiantly surrendered two runs in the game’s opening frame, bloating his first inning ERA to 8.10 on the year. Meanwhile, Núñez — who began the day hitting just .211 — took Happ deep again to improve his otherworldly career line against the lefty to 8-for-17 with four home runs.
Hanser Alberto, whom the Orioles claimed off waivers from the Yankees in the offseason, went 3-for-3 against Happ with a home run, a double, and a stolen base. A career .500 OPS hitter entering the game, Alberto is now 6-for-10 against Happ, adding to the list of mediocre Orioles who’ve figured out the 2018 AL All-Star. The Yankees signed Happ for $51 million over the winter at the height of his value, a deal the front office may regret already.
Late signs of life
Rather than swing for the fences, the Yankees mounted a slow and steady comeback, scoring at least one run in every inning after the fifth while the combination of Jonathan Holder, Zack Britton, and Chapman held the O’s off the board. Four Yankees had at least two hits, including, unsurprisingly, DJ LeMahieu:
That's 17 multi-hit games for DJLM this season. pic.twitter.com/klqiclB1Qg— New York Yankees (@Yankees) May 21, 2019
Gleyber Torres also stayed red-hot, adding two more home runs to improve his season total to ten. Known more for his advanced contact skills than for his power in the minor leagues, the 22-year-old Torres has now hit 34 long balls in 167 career games, establishing himself as an elite middle-infielder.
Game two against the Orioles is tomorrow at 7:05 ET, when the Yankees’ emergent ace Domingo German squares off against David Hess.