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Orioles 3, Yankees 2: Big second inning powered by Cervelli's homer isn't enough

A second inning rally seemed to portend a good evening for the Yankees, but solid Orioles relief pitching held the fort and the O's came back to win it.

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The Yankees played their first night game of spring training against the Orioles at Steinbrenner Field, but a good start was spoiled by a quiet final several innings. Their four-game winning streak was snapped as a bad seventh inning from reliever Chase Whitley led to the Orioles both tying the ballgame and taking the lead.

Although starter David Phelps was not at his sharpest this evening, he displayed tenacity on the mound, escaping jams left and right. The game began with back-to-back singles by David Lough and Jemile Weeks, but the rally was stopped almost immediately, as Delmon Young bounced a pitch to second baseman Brian Roberts (playing against the O's for the first time in his life), who made a nice flip to shortstop Brendan Ryan for a 4-6-3 double play.

Another grounder ended the inning. Baltimore began its second inning in even better fashion by putting runners on second and third with no one out on a Steve Pearce single and a Ryan Flaherty double down the right field line. Again though, Phelps worked out of trouble by retiring Francisco Peguero on a pop up, sending Quintin Berry down looking (which inspired this outstanding comment from long time listener), and inducing a ground ball from Cord Phelps.

A leadoff walk by Jacoby Ellsbury in the bottom of the first inning against Orioles starter Wei-Yin Chen was immediately erased on a ground ball double play by Derek Jeter. It's spring training and batting order is always wonky, but we can only hope that Jeter's not batting second by the time the game start to count. This has nothing to do with his current spring training performance. Recent studies have demonstrated that second is arguably the most important position in the lineup, and it's debatable to trust a 40-year-old in such a crucial lineup position at this juncture, especially since he’d be bouncing into double plays frequently anyway—that was one of the reasons he moved away from the second spot in the order a few years ago. /rant/

The Yankees broke through in the second inning for their only two runs of the game, though had it not been for Eduardo Nunez, there might have been more runs. Roberts led off with an infield single and was immediately erased on a Nunez double play. Catcher Francisco Cervelli promptly followed with a solo homer, the fourth of the spring already by Yankees backstops. They really want us to forget about Chris Stewart, don't they? Bless them.

They tacked on another run when Brendan Ryan, Russ Canzler, and Yangervis Solarte all singled consecutively to drive home another run. Take note that Nunez almost killed the inning and Solarte hit a two-out single with a runner in scoring position. Hell, he killed another rally in the third inning against Josh Stinson, popping out with runners on first and second and one out. I don't think too many people actually think that the likes of Solarte or Dean Anna are legitimate bench options with a lot of hope, but at least they inspire more confidence than Nunez, who has done basically nothing to promote his cause during his four years with the team.  At some point, you just have to try something different. If not Solarte or Anna, then maybe Scott Sizemore, who appeared in his first game of the spring in relief of Roberts and notched a single while making a pair of nice plays in the field. /rant two/

By the third, Phelps had run into one jam too many. Lough led off with a triple to right-center and scored on a Weeks ground out to cut the Yankees' 2-0 lead in half. He got Young on a called strike three, but after a two-out walk to catcher Steve Clevenger, Phelps's day was done. Lefty free agent signing Matt Thornton came in from the bullpen for his first game of the spring and needed just one pitch to get out of the inning thanks to a Pearce grounder to short. One pitch, one out, day over for Thornton.

The last several innings were a snooze. Brian Gordon and Chris Leroux surprised by pitching scoreless ball from the fourth through the sixth until Whitley entered the game in the seventh. What followed was not pretty: Flaherty single, Peguero hit by pitch, a game-tying RBI single by Berry, and a walk to Phelps to load the bases with no one out. Whitley sent Orioles prospect Jonathan Schoop down on strikes, but even though Sizemore made a nice play toward the first base side of second to get the out and save a second run from scoring, the go-ahead run came home from third. The Orioles had a 3-2 lead and that was about it for the game. Cesar Cabral and Preston Claiborne threw scoreless innings in the eight (aided by a terrific diving catch from Mason Williams) and ninth, but the Yankees combined for just three baserunners during the last six innings.

The Yankees will hit the road and take on the Rays tomorrow afternoon at 1:05. There won't be a video feed of the game, but radio of the game should be available for subscribers.

Box scoreHighlights.