Offense of any kind was at a premium tonight, with each team able to push runs across in only one inning respectively. Courtesy of a double and some hustle by Gleyber Torres in the first, the Yankees were able to scratch across one more run in their productive inning than the Orioles were able to in theirs, allowing them to come away with a tightly-fought 3-2 victory Wednesday night to clinch their ninth-straight series victory.
The Yankees jumped out to an early lead, thanks in part to the Orioles defense. With two outs in the bottom of the first, Anthony Rizzo and Josh Donaldson each singled out to put runners on first and second. Torres then proceeded to drill a 2-2 fastball the other way over the head of right fielder Anthony Santander, driving in Rizzo and putting runners on second and third with one out.
Although Joey Gallo proceeded to strike out to end the inning, that would not happen until the 2021 Yankees’ team MVP showed up, Mr. Wild-Pitch-with-a-Runner-on-Third. And boy, did he show up with a vengeance.
Jordan Lyles tried to bury a 1-0 changeup that catcher Anthony Bemboom was unable to corral, allowing Donaldson to score from third rather easily. In an attempt to throw him out, however, Bemboom attempted a no-look, underhanded throw that beat Lyles to the plate. The ball then careened into foul territory on the first-base side of the bag, and Torres — who has been extremely aggressive on the basepaths in all the right ways of late — scored easily.
Handed a 3-0 lead before he even hit the mound, Gerrit Cole got himself into a bit of trouble in the first inning. After getting Cedric Mullins to line out to open the inning, he sandwiched a Santander popout between a ground-rule double to Austin Hays and a single to Trey Mancini to put runners on first and third with two outs. Ramón Urías lined out to Marwin Gonzalez, starting in right field with Aaron Judge DHing and Giancarlo Stanton receiving the night off, ending the inning. It took 24 pitches, but Cole emerged unscathed.
Cole’s shaky outing continued into the second. Rougned Odor led off the inning with a single. Jorge Mateo then jumped on a first-pitch slider, driving it into the right-center field gap. Gonzalez, however, got a good jump on it and made a sliding catch to rob him of a potential extra-base hit.
Tyler Nevin followed that up by grounding into a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning. The Orioles had gotten some good wood on the ball, but for the second consecutive inning, they came away with nothing.
At this point, Cole entered what we might as well call the “How dare you make me even slightly labor!” portion of the evening. He retired the side in order in the third on just nine pitches, six of which came in Bemboom’s at-bat to lead off the inning. With his pitch count back under control, he overpowered the Baltimore hitters in the fourth and fifth, striking out five straight hitters. Four of them came on the fastball, and three of them were over the heart of the plate. In essence, he dared them to hit it…and they just simply couldn’t.
Meanwhile, after the first inning, the Yankees were unable to get anything going against Lyles at all, with their sole baserunners coming from singles by Gonzalez and Donaldson in the second and third, respectively. By the time Lyles left, he had retired 13 straight hitters, keeping the Yankees off the basepaths again until departing after the seventh inning. When they finally got a baserunner, courtesy of a leadoff double by Jose Trevino in the eighth, they stranded him there.
That inability to string hits together began to catch up with them in the sixth. Mullins led off the inning with a single to left field, and he would score all the way from first when Hays doubled into the left-field corner. Santander grounded out to second base, allowing the runner to advance to third. That would prove decisive, as Mancini laced a groundball to first baseman Rizzo, who made a strong throw to the plate but was unable to get the speedy Hays. While Urías and Odor each popped out to stop the bleeding, the damage was done, and the Yankees’ lead was cut to just one.
With his pitch count still in good shape, Cole came out for the bottom of the seventh. On the whole, the half-inning was uneventful, as he retired the side in order. What warrants highlighting this inning is not Cole’s performance, but rather an extremely heads-up play by his catcher, Trevino.
Mateo led off the inning by dribbling a 1-1 pitch in front of the plate, a ball that had a 61.4-mph exit velocity and a -69 degree launch angle. As the ball rolled up the foul line, Mateo held up, thinking the ball was going foul. Trevino, however, snatched the ball while it was still on the foul line and tagged Mateo for the first out of the inning.
Sometimes, a good defensive play does not involve athleticism; sometimes the only requirement is good instincts.
Cole’s night would end here. It was a rather unusual outing for the Yankees ace, who struggled through the first, was absolutely unhittable in the third, fourth, and fifth, and got the job done in the second and the seventh, and just left too many pitches over the heart of the plate in the sixth. Of course, his final line ended up a more than serviceable — two runs on six hits across seven innings, striking out five and walking none — which goes to show just how high a standard we hold our ace to.
Clay Holmes came on to pitch the eighth. In classic Holmes fashion, he induced two grounders, the first a Mullins roller to shortstop, the latter an infield single off the bat of Hays. Of course, that runner would not matter, as Santander laced a line drive at 96.9 mph off the bat — right at Rizzo at first base, who stepped on the bag for the easy double play.
Having thrown just eight pitches in the eighth, Holmes came back out for the ninth, facing the middle third of the O’s order. As the rain began to settle in, he fanned Mancini, got Urías to ground out to second, and induced a 3-1 bouncer to Odor to end the game.
Cole gets credited with the win, improving to 4-0 on the season, while Lyles drops to 2-4; Holmes notches his third save of the season (all of which have come against the Orioles). Now on a four-game winning streak, the Yankees stand at 28-9 on the season and currently remain 5.5 games in front of the second-place Tampa Bay Rays in the AL East.
It’s a quick turnaround tomorrow, however, as the Yankees look for the sweep at the unusually early start time of 12:35 pm EST. Jordan Montgomery (0-1, 3.06 ERA) matches up against Bruce Zimmerman (2-2, 2.72 ERA). As always, we’ll be here with coverage, as the Yankees lineup once again fails to provide run support for their No. 3 starter.