Rookie right-hander Randy Vásquez had another excellent outing, holding his opponent scoreless for five innings in his third career start, but a typically reliable Yankees bullpen faltered — aided by a costly defensive miscue — and their lineup was unable to generate any consistent offense against Dean Kremer, resulting in a 6-3 comeback win for the visitors. The Yankees drop back to 48-39 on the season, while the Orioles improve to 50-35.
The action started slowly tonight, as Vásquez skated skillfully around trouble over his first three innings, keeping the Orioles off the board despite putting multiple runners on in both the first and third inning. Three of those runners came via walk, and though Vásquez’s control wasn’t excellent, it was good enough to avoid too many mistakes in bad spots, and he was able to induce double-play grounders and strike his way out of jams.
The Yankees offense didn’t put any similar pressure on Kremer in the early going, and a Josh Donaldson single up the middle was the only home runner to reach base in the first three innings. Despite his rough statistics entering the day, the righty’s outing tonight was a masterclass in keeping the ball away from the middle of the plate, expertly locating and sequencing sinkers inside, four-seamers high, changeups and curveballs low, and cutters away without hardly once missing in a place where a hitter could hurt him.
That paragraph mostly applies to Kremer’s entire outing, but in full transparency, it was written right before he started out his half of the fifth by making what can only be described as a miss in a place where Josh Donaldson could hurt him.
Josh Donaldson - New York Yankees (9) pic.twitter.com/rOdopSQmaX— MLB HR Videos (@MLBHRVideos) July 6, 2023
After Isiah Kiner-Falefa followed it up with a one-out single, Anthony Volpe reached base on a fielder’s choice before advancing to second base in a scary moment that saw an errant Gunnar Henderson throw rocket into the dugout camera well, striking YES Network cameraman Pete Stendel and causing a lengthy on-field delay while he was was being cared for. Thankfully, Stendel was responsive enough to give a thumbs-up as he left the field on a cart.
UPDATE: Pete Stendel is conscious and undergoing tests in the hospital after being struck in the head by a ball in tonight's game. pic.twitter.com/k84iiFwteY— YES Network (@YESNetwork) July 6, 2023
When play resumed, Kyle Higashioka greeted Kremer back to the hill with a single that scored Volpe, though he then ended the inning by running into the third out at second.
That was virtually the only hiccup that Kremer encountered all day, however, and the 27-year-old cruised through another two innings after that to make it his second seven-inning start in three tries. He struck out a career-high 10, the first time he’s even broken seven in a single game, and his 39-percent CSW (called strike & whiff) rate was the best of his career by more than five percent.
Vásquez, for his part, recovered from his early shakiness to cruise through his fourth and fifth innings of work, with the only scare coming from an Adam Frazier strikeout that was turned into a leadoff baserunner via catcher’s interference. He might have been done after five even before the aforementioned delay extended his time on his bench, but in any case, he was lifted for Nick Ramirez, having needed just 75 pitches to get through five scoreless innings, striking out just one but allowing just three hits along the way. (Vásquez was optioned after the game.)
Unfortunately, things didn’t go quite so swimmingly for Ramirez, who was entrusted to face the three lefties in the middle of Baltimore’s lineup. The previously effective 2023 NRI induced a groundout to start the frame, but a Cedric Mullins double was immediately followed by an Aaron Hicks infield single. Ramirez’s day was done after rookie Colton Cowser’s first big league hit got the O’s on the scoreboard.
First hit, first RBI for Colton Cowser! pic.twitter.com/8KOefWMpz5— Baltimore Orioles (@Orioles) July 6, 2023
Michael King was ready to take over, but when Jordan Westburg greeted him to the game with a liner to left field, he was powerless to stop an ill-advised Jake Bauers dive that turned a single into a triple and gave the Orioles a 3-2 lead.
One weak grounder later, the lead was extended to 4-2. After completing the frame, King completing another two full innings of relief with just that one run on his line.
That’s exactly where the score stayed until the bottom of the eighth inning, when Kremer finally departed and Anthony Volpe did something that nobody in baseball has been able to do in 2023: Take Yennier Cano deep.
Chalk up another W for the factory upstate that supplies the Tampa Bay Rays with a supply of good players you’ve never heard of but are named Kevin:
First home run Cano has allowed this season! His 41.0 innings were the most in MLB without allowing a homer (new champ: Kevin Kelly of the Rays with 38.2) https://t.co/lFpruItMy0— James Smyth (@JamesSmyth621) July 6, 2023
It looked as if a rally might be brewing when Volpe’s jack was followed by an infield single from Billy McKinney, but Cano recovered enough to record two more outs, at which point Félix Bautista — who, although he is very very very very good, is most certainly not King Félix, in our humble view — entered early to record the final out of the inning. By the time he took the mound again in the ninth, though, the pressure had lessened considerably thanks to a two-run swat by Ryan O’Hearn off Ian Hamilton to the short porch that gave Baltimore a three-run cushion.
Even if it were close, it wouldn’t have mattered. Bautista had a stress-free night, converting his 23rd save of the season, and the Orioles clawed back a game in this series and game themselves a chance to salvage a tie tomorrow.
With Tampa Bay’s loss tonight, the Yankees remain eight games back in the AL East, while falling three behind Baltimore (and one game behind Houston, following their victory on Wednesday) in the Wild Card hunt. Luis Severino will attempt to rebound from his awful start in St. Louis and claim the series for the Yankees at 7:05 pm ET tomorrow, while the Orioles counter with right-hander Kyle Bradish. We’ll see you there!