Observations from and analysis of a big series win for the O’s at the Yankees
Game 1: 5-2 win on Thursday night (April 5)
Game 2: 7-3 14-inning win on Friday night (April 6)
Game 3: 8-3 loss on Saturday afternoon (April 7)
Game 4: 8-7 12-inning win on Sunday afternoon (April 8)
1. Yes, this was just the Orioles’ third series of the season. Yes, this Orioles team still has plenty of flaws. But I don’t care about any of those things right now. This was a tremendous series for the O’s. They won three of four at the mighty Yankees, including two marathon victories, a) despite not throwing Dylan Bundy, who clearly has been the Orioles’ best pitcher so far this season b) despite the bullpen being completely overworked and c) despite Chris Tillman and Mike Wright Jr. providing bad starts over the final two games of the series.
2. Let’s start with the Orioles’ bullpen, which was leaned on way too much in this series and yet came through.
Mike Wright Jr. was horrendous in the 8-7 12-inning win on Sunday afternoon, allowing five runs in the bottom of the first and recording just two outs. But six Orioles relievers – Pedro Araujo, Miguel Castro, Tanner Scott, Darren O’Day, Richard Bleier and Brad Brach – combined to allow two runs in 11 1/3 innings. Bleier was the MVP, as he tossed three scoreless innings. Brach was Houdini, as he issued back-to-back walks and the committed a fielding error to load the bases with no outs in the bottom of the 12th. But Brach then got Aaron Judge to ground into a 1-2-5 double play that resulted in outs at home and third base and then struck out Giancarlo Stanton to end the game.
The Orioles’ bullpen also was great in the 7-3 14-inning win on Friday night. Five relievers combined to allow one run in nine innings on seven strikeouts versus just two hits and four walks. One of the hits was a game-tying solo homer by Didi Gregorious off Castro in the bottom of the eighth. But Bleier, Mychal Givens, Araujo and Brach combined for 6 2/3 scoreless innings. Givens made maybe the play of the game with a figure-four slide to block home plate and tag out Gregorious off a throw from Caleb Joseph to end the bottom of the 11th.
The great work by the Orioles’ bullpen on Friday night meant that the O’s had to make a roster move for bullpen depth for Saturday afternoon’s game, and so they recalled Jimmy Yacabonis from Triple-A Norfolk and put Colby Rasmus on the 10-day disabled list with a left hip flexor strain. Yacabonis was bad in the 8-3 loss on Saturday afternoon, allowing three runs in the bottom of the seventh on a leadoff walk of Brett Gardner (who had been down in the count 1-2), an RBI double by Aaron Judge, a one-out intentional walk of Gregorious and then a one-out two-run single by Tyler Austin (despite him having been down in the count 0-2). Bleier and Nestor Cortes Jr. did combine for 1 2/3 scoreless innings in this game.
Givens allowed a run in the bottom of the seventh in the 5-2 win on Thursday night, but O’Day and Brach combined for 2 1/3 scoreless innings with three strikeouts.
3. The O’s desperately needed length from their starters in Games 3 and 4 in the series and didn’t get nearly enough, especially in Game 4.
Mike Wright Jr. in the 8-7 12-inning win on Sunday afternoon allowed five runs (two earned) in the bottom of the first (during which he committed a throwing error) and recorded just two outs. He gave up five hits and a walk and committed a throwing error. It would seem to be only a matter of time until this guy is out of the rotation in favor of Alex Cobb, although it’s not like Chris Tillman is exactly killing it.
Tillman was better in the 8-3 loss on Saturday afternoon than he was in his disastrous season debut and than he was in his disastrous 2017 season, but he still wasn’t good. On a day on which the O’s needed length from their starter due to them having used five relievers for nine innings in the 14-inning win on Friday night, Tillman allowed five runs in 5 1/3 innings on eight hits, four walks and two wild pitches. There was some bad luck involved, as six of the eight hits were singles, including an Austin Romine full-count RBI single that deflected off the glove of Chris Davis, who was unable to make an over-the-shoulder catch in the bottom of the sixth. But Tillman threw 106 pitches over his 5 1/3 innings, and just 58 of the 106 pitches were strikes. He wasn’t good, and it should be far from a given that he remains in this rotation.
4. Kevin Gausman certainly wasn’t great in the 7-3 14-inning win on Friday night, but he wasn’t a disaster, and with him you almost take that as a win. He allowed two runs in five innings on five hits (including four singles), a walk and hit-by-pitch. He threw 96 pitches over the five innings.
5. Andrew Cashner in the 5-2 win on Thursday night did precisely what he was signed by the O’s to do: provide a needed quality outing. The O’s entering this game had gotten just two good starting-pitching outings in six games this season, and both of those performances had come from Dylan Bundy. But Cashner in Game 1 of this series was good: one run in six innings on five strikeouts versus two hits and three walks. He tossed 5 2/3 scoreless innings before giving up a two-out solo homer to Aaron Judge in the bottom of the sixth. Cashner gave up a leadoff double to Tyler Wade in the bottom of the third but then recorded three consecutive outs, including a strikeout of Brett Gardner and a fly out from Judge with Wade on third.
6. The Orioles’ offense finally woke up in this series, performing well in each of the three wins.
The O’s had 16 hits and four walks in the 8-7 12-inning win on Sunday afternoon. The team’s two starting corner outfielders and no. 7 and no. 8 batters were the stars. Left fielder Craig Gentry had three singles, including a two-out full-count go-ahead RBI single in the top of the 12th to conclude an 11-pitch war with Adam Warren. Gentry also made a diving catch of a Brett Gardner liner with one out and Didi Gregorious on second in the bottom of the 10th. Right fielder Anthony Santander had a two-out two-run homer in the top of the seventh to give the O’s a 7-6 lead, an RBI single in the top of the second and another single.
Six of the Orioles’ nine hits in the 7-3 14-inning win on Friday night came from two guys: Manny Machado and Pedro Alvarez. Machado got on base six times, smashing two solo homers and two singles and working two walks. Alvarez – El Toro – had a first-pitch grand slam in the top of the 14th to go with a two-out pinch single in the top of the 10th and a two-out walk in the top of the 12th. This is Alvarez’s third straight season with the O’s, though they barely used him last season. But he hit 22 homers and had a 117 OPS+ in 2016 over 376 plate appearances. Also in this game on Friday night was a Chris Davis solo homer, which was much-needed for him. He also had a walk and a hit-by-pitch.
Five of the Orioles’ 10 hits in the 5-2 win on Thursday night came from two guys: Trey Mancini and Adam Jones. Mancini, who batted in the no. 1 spot in all four games in this series, had a two-out two-run single off Chad Green to cap the Orioles’ five-run seventh and two other singles. Jones smashed a two-run homer off Masahiro Tanaka in that five-run seventh and had a double.
The O’s had just six hits and two walks in the 8-3 loss on Saturday afternoon. Machado had a two-out two-run double in the top of the third, but he and Jonathan Schoop struck out in back-to-back plate appearances against David Robertson to end the top of the seventh with runners on second and third.