The Yankees hoped that this afternoon, they could perhaps simultaneously grant a number of days off to their regulars while also clinching home field advantage in the Wild Card game on Tuesday. However, they have struggled badly against lefthanded pitching for most of the past month, and it was almost too easy for Orioles southpaw Wei-Yin Chen to steamroll through the Yankees' JV squad.
Joe Girardi tapped Ivan Nova for the matinee start, but he never really seemed to find a rhythm. Nolan Reimold and Gerardo Parra slapped back-to-back singles to begin the game and Manny Machado brought one home on a hard-hit ground ball double play. Nova then allowed a booming double to Chris Davis and walked Matt Wieters, then needed a line drive out by Steve Pearce to escape the inning with just one run. The top of the Baltimore lineup was at it again in the third when Nova drilled Reimold in the back and Parra doubled to left. Machado scored another run with a ground ball, and just like in the first, Nova had to throw a lot of pitches to somehow escape with just a one-run frame.
In the fifth, Machado launched a mammoth homer to left-center field into the bullpen to give the Orioles a 3-0 lead, and Nova was again forced to strand baserunners. He ran out of luck in the next inning, as the O's put runners on first and second with two outs on a pair of singles and a fielder's choice. The eight hits and three walks over 5 2/3 innings were too much for Girardi, who replaced Nova with Chasen Shreve, desperately hoping to get his beleaguered lefty back to the dominant force he was in the first half.
That... did not happen:
It has been very difficult to watch Shreve at the end of the season, and even with the rest of the Yankees' bullpen struggles beyond the few reliable arms, he really does not deserve a spot on the playoff roster. Just let him travel with the team and come back fresh in 2016.
Meanwhile, Chen dominated a Yankees lineup that did not feature Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann, Greg Bird, Jacoby Ellsbury, Didi Gregorius, or Dustin Ackley. Chen induced weak contact all afternoon, save for Chris Young's triple. The offense didn't help matters by stranding six baserunners in scoring position with Chen on the mound, including Young, who failed to score despite reaching third with no one out. Their best inning didn't come until Chen was tiring and walked John Ryan Murphy, then allowed a single to Jose Pirela. Chen departed to a nice applause in possibly his final Orioles start.
At first, it seemed like reliever Brad Brach would make the game close again. He walked Bird pinch-hitting for Austin Romine, and then went 2-0 on Gregorius, pinch-hitting for Brendan Ryan. A mound visit apparently revitalized him, and he struck Gregorius out. The Yankees brought two runs home on a Brett Gardner fielder's choice and a Rob Refsnyder single, but with Mychal Givens now on the mound, Alex Rodriguez struck out.
The Orioles quickly tacked on two more runs against Nick Goody in the bottom of the seventh, and that just about did it for the game. Rookies Rico Noel and Gary Sanchez were granted their first big-league at-bats in the ninth, with Noel getting his first hit on a slow roller in the infield (of course) and Sanchez popping out to third. Gardner struck out a few minutes later, and that was the ballgame.
The teams will reconvene at 7:05 for the nightcap, and the Yankees will start Luis Severino, who try to ensure that Tuesday's Wild Card game will be at Yankee Stadium. He will be opposed by the Ubaldo Jimenez, who will likely throw a three-hitter or depart in the third inning with five walks and six runs allowed.