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Yankees 12, Orioles 8: Anthony Rizzo takes over after pitching staff implodes

For a while, it looked like this game was going to be all about Luis Severino, but it ended as a slugfest.

Baltimore Orioles v New York Yankees Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

It started out as a night dominated by pitching. It will be remembered for a barrage of wall-scraping home runs. No matter how it happened, however, it ends as a 12-8 Yankees win over the Baltimore Orioles, courtesy of a strong outing by starter Luis Severino and a three-homer night by first baseman Anthony Rizzo.

Halfway through the night, I thought we would be spending the entire recap talking about Luis Severino. The right-hander’s final line on the night reflects an outing that is very good, but certainly not elite: four runs on three hits, striking out five and walking two across six innings and one batter. If you were watching the game, however, you’d recognize the truth: this was Sevy’s most dominant outing of the short season, and it’s not particularly close.

He retired the first 14 batters he faced, not allowing a baserunner until Austin Hays reached on a two-out walk in the top of the fifth inning. He did not surrender a hit until former Yankee farmhand Jorge Mateo hit a broken bat single over the leaping try of Isiah Kiner-Falefa with one out in the sixth. The Orioles managed just five hard-hit balls against him, and posted just a .206 xBA. And for most of the night, when they did hit the ball hard, the Yankees defense had their pitcher’s back. Just take a look at DJ’s diving catch to rob Ramón Urías of a sure single to end the 5th.

Unfortunately for both Sevy and the Yankees, when the Orioles finally got some baserunners, they got them in bunches. After Mateo’s single ended the no-hit bid, Cedric Mullins walked to put runners on first and second with one away. Anthony Santander then deposited a home run over the leaping try of Joey Gallo in left field. With an exit velocity of 100.8 mph, it had an xBA of just .180, but the runs three runs counted all the same.

The O’s narrowed the gap in the seventh further. After Rougned Odor led off the inning with a double to drive Severino from the game, Urías finally found green off Clay Holmes with an RBI single to right field. He would then retire the next two in order to end the frame, with Robinson Chirinos flying out to center and Mateo hitting into a fielder’s choice, courtesy of a diving stop by IKF.

Had the Yankees lost, the story of the night would be that the pitching staff did a good job of keeping Baltimore hitters off the basepaths, but when the Orioles got somebody on, they couldn’t keep them from coming around to score. Fortunately, the bats showed up, dropping double digit runs on the second straight night.

For the first two innings, Baltimore starter Jordan Lyles kept the lid on the Yankees lineup, retiring the side in order on a trio of groundouts in the first and stranding Donaldson, who reached on an Odor throwing error, on first base in the second. Everything changed once the third rolled around. First, Kiner-Falefa led off the inning with the first hit by either team, a groundball single up the middle. Kyle Higashioka followed that up with a rare walk, putting runners on first and second with nobody out and the top of the order coming to the plate. LeMahieu popped out to the catcher and Aaron Judge struck out looking, however, and it looked like the Yankees would waste a golden opportunity.

But Rizzo had other ideas, driving a moonshot to right field, his sixth home run of the year, which tied him for the major league lead.

Alright, maybe I’m exaggerating a little. Maybe that was just 97.6 mph off the bat, traveled 346 feet, had an xBA of .180, and would have been a fly out to right field in every other ballpark. Regardless, it was a home run, and all of a sudden, the Yankees had a 3-0 lead.

Humorously, the next batter, Giancarlo Stanton, casually drilled a sharp groundball through the left side of the infield at 118.8 mph; it was one of the hardest-hit balls of the season, went more than 20 mph faster than Rizzo’s home run, and it was just a single. Baseball!

In the bottom of the fourth, the Yankees’ other Italian left-handed bat decided he needed to get in on the fun. Left fielder Joey Gallo sent a 0-1 changeup, going opposite field for his first home run of the year. With a 110.4 mph exit velocity and a .990 xBA, it would have been a home run in every ballpark except Detroit.

With this home run, Gallo has a hit in his last three games, including an extra base hit in the last two. Hopefully this is indicative of more good things to come, as left field has been a veritable black hole for the Yankees in the early stages of this season.

The following inning, LeMahieu led off with a single, extending his hitting streak to 12 games. After Judge struck out, Rizzo decided that he liked having a share in the HR lead but preferred to have it all to himself.

While not exactly a no-doubter, this one was certainly no wall-scraper. As he rounded the bases, the stadium briefly erupted with MVP chants. While it’s unlikely this is the beginning of an MVP campaign, it did give the Yankees what should have been an insurmountable 6-0 lead against an Orioles team that came into the day with a team OPS+ of 78.

As we already know, the O’s closed to within two, entering the bottom of the seventh with a 6-4 Yankees lead. At this point, the top of the Yankees order started the merry-go-round. LeMahieu led off the inning with a single, while Judge followed up with another single, and Rizzo walked to load the bases. Stanton kept the line moving with a single of his own, scoring LeMahieu and keeping the bases loaded. Donaldson struck out, but Gleyber Torres stretched his hitting streak to five and sliced a bases-clearing triple into the left-center field gap to give the Yankees a 10-4 lead.

The Orioles refused to go quietly. Cedric Mullins opened up the top of the eighth with a single off the right field wall against Lucas Luetge. Mullins reached second on a Santander swinging bunt, then came around to score on a Trey Mancini single. Luetge then plunked Odor to put runners on first and second. Trying to avoid a three-run home run that would bring the O’s to within two again, Aaron Boone turned to Jonathan Loáisiga...who proceeded to allow a three-run home run into the left field seats. Urías then lined out to first to end the inning, but the damage was done.

Once again, the Yankees offense decided to pick up their pitching staff. After LeMahieu opened up the bottom of the frame with a pop out to short, Aaron Judge came to the plate. As the Yankee Stadium faithful sang “Happy Birthday,” the 30-year-old outfielder decided to give a present to his pitching staff — and to a lucky fan in the left field seats — a 392-foot home run. By Judgian standards, it was a weak shot, just 98.5 mph off the bat, but it gave the Yankees some much-needed breathing room.

Rizzo followed that up with probably the strangest home run you’ll see all year.

I don’t know what’s the weirdest part of it. Is it the xBA of just .010 — no, that’s not a typo — which means it had the same likelihood of being a hit as DJ’s pop out to second to start the inning? Is it the fact that it everybody thought it was going to be a foul ball — including Rizzo himself, who described himself as “shocked” when talking to Ryan Ruocco on the field after the game? Perhaps it the fact that it was the first three-homer game of his career and the first Yankee with three home runs in one game since Kyle Higashioka accomplished the feat back in 2020.

Of course, the only thing that matters is that it was a home run, giving the Yankees a 12-8 lead. And while Aroldis Chapman made things a little interesting in the ninth, walking both Chirinos and Santander, that’s where the score would stay.

Luis Severino gets credited with the win, improving to 2-0 on the year, while Jordan Lyles gets tagged with the loss. With the victory, the Yankees improve to 11-6, currently have a four-game win streak, and have won six of their last seven. They return to action at 7:05 pm ET tomorrow night, as Jordan Montgomery is expected to face Tyler Wells.

Box Score.