The opportunities to get ahead were abundant, but the Yankees couldn’t find a way to cash in. New York left 12 runners on base in the finale of a three-game set against the Orioles. The team continued its inexplicable matchup from last year by dropping the rubber match 7-5, losing the first series of the year in the process.
J.A. Happ got the ball after a lengthy rain delay, and he got off to a rough start. He managed to strike out Jonathan Villar to lead off the game, but Dwight Smith and Trey Mancini slapped back-to-back hits to put runners in scoring position. Renato Nunez then took Happ deep to left, and the O’s had a 3-0 lead. Mancini got to Happ again in the third inning, popping a solo shot to center to extend the lead to four.
The Yankees managed to strike back in the fourth inning, loading the bases on Baltimore’s starter Dylan Bundy. John Means came in to replace Bundy, but served up a walk to Brett Gardner that brought home the first Yankee run of the game. Aaron Judge poked a single to right field in the next at-bat, driving home two and closing the gap to 4-3.
The Orioles managed to stay a stride ahead throughout, however. Villar got on base in the fifth against reliever Luis Cessa, and moved to third after a stolen base and a throwing error by Gary Sanchez . Smith gave Baltimore an insurance run by grounding a single through to left field to bring Villar home.
Sanchez made things interesting by launching a solo home run to left in the seventh, but the Orioles continued to add to the lead. Stephen Tarpley came on in the eighth inning after Cessa allowed a one-out walk, and Joey Rickard joined the home run derby with a two-run shot of his own to give Baltimore a three-run advantage heading into the ninth.
It seemed like the Yankees would go down without a fight in their final chance, grounding into two quick outs, but Greg Bird started a rally by walking on five pitches. Gleyber Torres then barely beat out an infield single that was upheld by video replay, and DJ LeMahieu bounced a ball to right field to bring the winning run to the plate. The Yankees opted to pinch hit Troy Tulowitzki for Gardner, but Tulo struck out swinging to end the game.
Everything about this game, from the three-hour delay due to rain, to the slow start, to the anticlimactic finish, could summarize the feeling of this series as a whole. The Yankees lost the East by dropping games like these to cellar-dwellers last season, and they didn’t get off to the start they wanted this year.