YANKEES 5, ORIOLES 3
There is an old saying in sports that you should “take what they give you.” When the Orioles began losing control of the strike zone on Sunday the Yankees took advantage for a come-from-behind victory at Camden Yards.
John Ryan Murphy laced a two-out, two-run single off left-hander Brian Matusz in the fifth inning to break a 3-3 tie as New York was able to salvage one game against Baltimore in their three-game weekend series.
Trailing 3-2 to start the inning, Chase Headley, Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira drew three consecutive walks on 3-2 pitches off right-hander Mike Wright to load the bases.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter yanked Wright in favor of Matusz, who was just returning to action from an eight-game suspension. But Garrett Jones also was able to draw a walk on a 3-2 pitch and Headley came in to score the game-tying run.
After Matusz struck out Stephen Drew and Didi Gregorius, Murphy was able to slap a 2-0 pitch that caromed off the glove of Orioles third baseman Manny Machado and rolled into left-field for a double that allowed Rodriguez and Teixeira to score.
Wright (2-2) was charged with five runs on six hits and three walks with two strikeouts in 4-plus innings of work.
Meanwhile, the Yankees’ bullpen shut down the red-hot Orioles for the remainder of the game.
Left-hander Chasen Shreve (3-1) entered the game with two in the fifth inning and he pitched 1 1/3 innings of scoreless relief to earn credit for the victory.
Left-hander Justin Wilson followed Shreve to hurl two perfect innings and Dellin Betances threw up a scoreless ninth to earn his third save in three opportunities this season.
Right-hander Adam Warren started for the Yankees and he was staked to an early 1-0 lead in the first inning after Brett Gardner led off with an infield single and later scored on a two-out RBI double by Teixeira. It was Teixeira’s American-League-leading 47th RBI of the season.
But Warren was unable to hold the lead after Machado led off the bottom of the frame with a single and advanced to third on a single by Adam Jones. Chris Davis drew a four-pitch walk to load the bases and Nolan Reimold hit a bloop single to center to score Machado and Jones.
The Yankees tied the game in the second after they loaded the bases on Wright on consecutive singles by Drew, Gregorius and Murphy, who had three hits on the day. One out later, Gardner hit a line-drive sacrifice to center that scored Drew.
The Orioles broke the 2-2 tie in the fourth after Reimold walked and J.J. Hardy advanced him to second on a one-out single. But after Warren fanned Ryan Flaherty, Caleb Joseph hit a bloop double to right-center that scored Reimold.
Warren was charged with three runs on six hits and three walks with five strikeouts in 4 2/3 innings.
The victory by the Yankees snapped a three-game losing streak and allowed them to maintain a share of the lead in the American League East with the Tampa Bay Rays. The Yankees are 34-28 and lead the Rays in the loss column by one game. The Orioles fell to 31-31 and they are three games back in fourth place in the division.
- Murphy entered the game batting .208 in only 155 at-bats. But he ended up 3-for-4 with a double, two singles and two RBIs. The 24-year-old backup catcher deserves a lot of credit for coming up big in a two-out situation and provide a huge game-winning hit with starter Brian McCann resting.
- Shreve, Wilson and Betances combined to shut out the Orioles over 4 1/3 innings on no hits, two walks and five strikeouts. Over the past three games the bullpen has not been what it should have and this game hopefully re-establishes them as a strength of the team. With Andrew Miller on the disabled list and Esmil Rogers and Jacob Lindgren shipped out to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, right-handers Sergio Santos, rookie Jose Ramirez and Chris Martin have the task of holding the bullpen together until Miller returns.
- Teixeira’s double extended his hitting streak to five games. Over those five games, Teixeira is 8-for-17 (.471) with three doubles and two RBIs. That has raised his season average from .237 to .256. He is tied for fourth in the A.L. with 17 home runs and his 47 RBIs lead the league.
- Manager Joe Girardi elected to remove Warren in the fifth inning despite the fact that he needed only one out to qualify for a victory. Perhaps the reason why was because Jimmy Paredes was on second after a single and Davis drew a one-out walk. After Warren struck out Reimold looking, Girardi brought in the left-hander Shreve to face the lefty-swinging Travis Snider, who was representing the potential go-ahead run. Warren had little to complain about because he had thrown 92 pitches and only 56 were strikes (61 percent).
- If you take away Murphy’s game-winning double, the Yankees would have been 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position. That pretty much tells you that if it were not for the four walks they drew in the fifth, they might have lost the game. The offense needs to be more consistent if this team wants to remain in first place.
Jacoby Ellsbury, 31, told reporters on Sunday that he hopes to be back with the Yankees before the end of the month. Ellsbury has been on the disabled list since injuring himself on a swing on May 19, spraining lateral collateral ligament in his right knee. Doctors told him it would take six weeks for him to recover, which would put his return date on June 30. But Ellsbury thinks he can return sooner. “I’m optimistic I can be back before that,” Ellsbury told reporters. “If I can trim any time off that, I think it would be a success.” . . . Right-hander Ivan Nova pitched six innings of one-run baseball on Saturday for Scranton and the team may decide soon whether he is ready to return. Nova, 28, who has been recovering from Tommy John surgery last year, gave up five hits, walked one and struck out three in his second rehab start. If the Yankees activate Nova he will be slotted back into the rotation and Warren could possibly be shifted back to the bullpen.
The Yankees will begin a four-game home-and-home series with Miami Marlins on Monday beginning at Marlins Park.
Right-hander Masahiro Tanaka (4-1, 2.48 ERA) will start the series for the Yankees. Tanaka has given up just two runs in 14 innings in his two starts since he came off the disabled list on June 3. He has not faced the Marlins before.
Right-hander Tom Koehler (4-4, 4.00 ERA) will pitch for the Marlins. Koehler, 28, yielded five runs on eight hits and two walks with seven strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings in a loss to the Toronto Blue Jays on Wednesday.
Game-time will be 7:10 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast by WPIX.
YANKEES 5, ORIOLES 4
Whenever baseball announcers brought up the myriad injuries the Yankees have suffered through this season the name Eduardo Nunez rarely came up. It was as if the 26-year-old shortstop was the forgotten man among all those superstars that were languishing on the disabled list.
But Nunez served notice he was back in a big way on Saturday by rolling an RBI single up the middle with one out in the sixth inning that proved to be the game-winner as New York extended its winning streak to a season-high six games by edging Baltimore in front of a swelteringly hot paid crowd 42,678 at Yankee Stadium.
Nunez was activated from the disabled list just before the game after having not played in a game since May 5 due to a severely strained left oblique. He was immediately inserted into the lineup at shortstop and batted eighth.
He then sparked the Yankees by going 2-for-3 with a run scored and two RBIs after hitting just .200 with no home runs and four RBIs in the 27 games he played before suffering the injury.
Andy Pettitte (6-6) gutted out the 91-degree heat and high humidity to pitch into the seventh inning to collect his first victory since June 8 in Seattle against the Mariners, a span of five starts.
The Yankees trailed the Orioles throughout the early innings until the fifth against right-hander Chris Tillman (10-3).
With the O’s up 4-2, Nunez opened the inning with a lined opposite-field single to right and Chris Stewart followed with single to left. Brett Gardner advanced the runners a base with a sacrifice bunt and Ichiro Suzuki brought Nunez home with a bouncer up the middle that likely also would have scored Stewart.
However, Orioles second baseman Alexi Casilla made a diving stop on the outfield grass to keep Stewart at third. But the sparkling play could not prevent Robinson Cano from dumping a bloop single into left that scored Stewart with tying run.
The Yankees seized control of the game in the sixth when Lyle Overbay laced his third straight single of the day to open the frame and Luis Cruz bunted him to second. That set the stage for Nunez, who drove in the Yankees’ second run of the game in the second inning with a sacrifice fly, to come through with what proved to be the game-winning hit.
Tillman was charged with five runs on 10 hits and two walks while he struck out three in 5 1/3 innings. The loss broke a streak of seven consecutive winning decisions for the veteran right-hander.
Pettitte left with two out in the seventh having yielded four runs (three earned) on nine hits and no walks while he fanned four batters.
Relievers Shawn Kelley, David Robertson and Mariano Rivera shut out the Orioles over the final 2 1/3 innings on two hits, no walks and three strikeouts.
Rivera twirled a scoreless ninth – striking out former Yankee Chris Dickerson swinging with the tying run on first for the final out – to earn his 29th save in 30 chances this season. That save ties the 43-year-old future Hall-of-Fame closer with the O’s Jim Johnson for the major-league lead in saves in his final season.
The Orioles got on the board in the first inning off Pettitte when Adam Jones slapped a two-out single to left and Chris Davis stroked his major-league-leading 33rd home run to dead center to make 2-0.
The O’s added an unearned run in the second whenPettitte made a wild throw over Overbay’s outstretched glove on a single off the bat of Nolan Reimold, which allowed Reimold to take second. Casilla followed with an RBI single to left to score Reimold.
The Yankees got back into the game with two runs in the second.
Travis Hafner drew a leadoff walk and advanced to second on an opposite-field single off the bat of rookie Zoilo Almonte. Overbay then laced a sharp single to right to load the bases and Cruz drove in a run in the third of the four games he has played with the Yankees with a single to left that scored Hafner.
Nunex then drove a ball deep into left-center to score Almonte, however, Reimold gunned down Stewart trying to advance to third for a double play, which effectively killed the rally.
The Orioles added a run in the third on a leadoff double by J.J. Hardy and he advanced to third on a fly ball to center by Reimold and scored one out later on a single by Taylor Teagarden.
The Yankees rally to win also provided them with a claim on second place in the American League East. The victory gives them a 48-39 record and they passed the Orioles, who are now 48-40. The Yankees trail first-place Boston by 5 1/2 games as the Red Sox play the Los Angeles Angels on the West Coast.
- Nunez blew a great opportunity to be the team’s utility infielder last season with some erratic play in the field. He also got injured and missed most of the 2012 season with a nagging right thumb injury. This season he was handed the shortstop job because Derek Jeter was rehabbing from left ankle surgery. But Nunez suffered a severe oblique strain that sidelined for two months. But when Nunez is right, he can help the Yankees as a career .264 major-league hitter with 40 steals in 49 attempts. His 2-for-3 day pretty much shows what the Yankees have missed from him.
- Cruz has been impressive ever since he joined the team as a free agent signee on Tuesday. He is 4-for-14 (.286) with three RBIs in four games. With the addition of Nunez as shortstop, the Yankees on Saturday moved Cruz to third base, which allowed them to sit a slumping David Adams. The Yankees need right-hand production in the lower part of the order and Nunez and Cruz may provide it.
- Overbay’s 3-for-4 day hopefully will get him turned around at the plate. In the previous nine games, Overbay was 6-for-28 (.214). Of course, since the season-ending wrist surgery was performed on Mark Teixeira the Yankees have been forced to play Overbay every day and he is hitting an anemic .190 against left-handers. The Yankees could use a right-handed hitter who can play the position.
- Gardner was 0-for-4 with a strikeout and three groundouts. In his past four games, Gardner is in a 1-for-17 (.059) slide that has dropped his season average from .288 to .276. The slump comes despite the fact that manager Joe Girardi rested him on Thursday.
- Two base-running blunders really hurt the Yankees but ultimately they did not cost them a victory. One was Stewart’s decision to go to third on Nunez’s sacrifice fly in the second inning. Stewart was thrown out easily by Reimold trying to slide into third base for the second out when Stewart was already in scoring position at second base. The other blunder came when Gardner dropped down a sacrifice bunt in the sixth. Nunez was on second and assumed that pitcher Brian Matusz would throw to first. But the left-hander threw to Manny Machado at third and Nunez was thrown out because he did not run hard.
- Though Pettitte did win the game, he did not pitch well. In his past five starts dating back to June 14, Pettitte has yielded 19 earned runs on 41 hits and eight walks in 31 1/3 innings. He is 1-3 with a 5.46 ERA and a WHIP of 1.56 over that span.
The Yankees placed right-hander David Phelps on the 15-day disabled list with a mild right forearm strain. Phelps, 26, will be shelved for 10 days and then will be re-evaluated. An MRI taken on Friday did not show any ligament damage. Phelps is 6-5 with a 5.01 ERA in 12 starts. To take his place on the roster the Yankees activated Nunez from the 60-day disabled list and they shifted Teixeira to the 60-day disabled list. Ivan Nova, who earned his first major-league complete-game victory on Friday pitching in place of Hiroki Kuroda will remain the rotation in place of Phelps. . . . Jeter will play in his first rehab game on Saturday for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in a game against Lehigh Valley. Right-hander Michael Pineda will make his final rehab appearance as the starter for the RailRiders in the same game. Pineda is 2-1 with a 2.60 ERA and 15 strikeouts in his previous four starts. The Yankees will have to decide whether to activate him from the disabled list or option him to Scranton.
The Yankees can pay back the Orioles for sweeping them at Camden Yards last week by pulling off a home sweep of their own against Baltimore on Sunday.
Kuroda (7-6, 2.95 ERA) will start for the Yankees after missing his scheduled start on Friday with soreness in his left hip. Kuroda lost to the O’s in his last start on June 30, giving up four runs on seven hits in six innings. He is 2-3 with a 3.90 ERA in his career against the Orioles.
Right-hander Jason Hammel (7-5, 5.19 ERA) will start for Baltimore. Hammel was tagged for five runs on nine hits and a walk while he struck out seven in a loss Tuesday to the Chicago White Sox. He has not won a game in his past six starts. He is 3-3 with 5.46 ERA lifetime against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by TBS and locally by the YES Network.
ORIOLES 5, YANKEES 3
Ryan Flaherty, Nick Markakis and Nolan Reimold each hit solo home runs and Jason Hammel pitched six solid innings as Baltimore edged New York on Saturday in front of a paid crowd of 41,851 at Yankee Stadium.
All three solo home runs came off Yankees right-hander Phil Hughes (0-2), who is showing signs that he is now paying for missing all of spring training with a bulging disk in his upper back.
Hughes was hammered for five runs on nine hits and two walks and struck out three in four-plus innings of work.
The Yankees scored all their runs as a result of their new acquisitions. They got a pair of solo home runs from Travis Hafner and Vernon Wells and an RBI single from Lyle Overbay. But the Yankees could not overcome Hughes’ struggles enough to mount a late charge against the Baltimore bullpen.
Brian Matusz, Darren O’Day and closer Jim Johnson shut out the Yankees in the final three innings and Johnson was credited with his fifth save of the season.
Hammel (2-1) gave up three runs (two earned) on eight hits and a walk while he struck out four to pick up the victory.
The Yankees had their four-game winning streak halted and their season record fell to 5-5. The Orioles improved to 6-5.
- Wells blasted his third home run of the season to bring the Yankees to within 5-3 but the Yankee offense pretty much died after that. Wells was 2-for-4 in the game and even got himself an outfield assist in throwing out Adam Jones trying to stretch a hit into a double. Wells is hitting .333 in the early going and it appears he is loving the fact he is playing every day again.
- Hafner also stroked his third home run of the season to lead off the second inning. It was a laser shot that landed in the Yankees’ bullpen in right-center. Hafner is hitting .303 so far and he is looking more like the star he was with the Indians than the injured wreck he has been the past five seasons.
- David Phelps made a case for himself to be inserted into the starting rotation. He came into the game in the fourth with the Yankees trailing 5-3 and a runner on second and no outs. He then proceeded to retire six batters in a row, four of them by strikeout. He ended up pitching four shutout innings and the only hit he gave up was Jones’ single and Wells threw him out at second.
- Hughes, 26, is basically pitching his own version of spring training and it shows. Hughes simply lacked command of all of his pitches and the Orioles just teed off on him. The Yankees have to hope he will right himself as he gets stronger. Hughes, who was second in the American League in giving up 35 home runs in 2012, also needs to try harder to keep the ball in the ballpark.
- It is hard to criticize Kevin Youkilis because he came into the game hitting a team-best .424 and he had at least one hit in all of the team’s first nine games. But he was Missing In Action (MIA) on Saturday. He was 0-for-5, including a strikeout and hitting into an inning-ending double play. His average fell to .368.
- Hammel used shortstop Jayson Nix as an escape hatch to maintain the lead for the Orioles. Nix bounced back to Hammel in the second inning with a runner on. In the fourth, Nix struck out looking with two on and in the sixth he fouled out to first baseman Chris Davis with two on.
Shortstop Eduardo Nunez only was available to pinch-run and the Orioles took advantage by targeting Nix to shut down rallies. Manager Joe Girardi used pinch-hitter Brennan Boesch for Nix in the eighth inning with two and two out, but Boesch struck out swinging against O’Day. That forced Girardi to shift catcher Francisco Cervelli to second base, Robinson Cano moved from second base to shortstop and Chris Stewart was inserted behind the plate for the ninth inning. It was Cano’s first major-league appearance at shortstop and only Cervelli’s second appearance at second base. Nunez, who left Friday’s game with a bruised wrist after being struck by a pitch from Orioles right-hander Miguel Gonzalez, will not be available to play in the field until at least Tuesday. . . . Girardi refused to comment on new allegations surrounding Alex Rodriguez and a clinic in Miami that allegedly supplied players with performance-enhancing drugs. Major League Baseball reportedly believes it has unearthed evidence that a representative for Rodriguez attempted to have documents purchased from the Biogenesis anti-aging clinic. Girardi said the team is aware of the charges but he said the news has not affected the clubhouse at all.
The Yankees will hope to win the rubber game of the three-game weekend series with the Orioles on Sunday.
Right-hander Hiroki Kuroda (1-1, 6.75 ERA) will start for the Yankees. Kuroda, still suffering the effects of a bruised right middle finger incurred in his first start, gave up three runs in the first inning and struggled with his command in 5 1/3 innings against the Cleveland Indians on Monday. But still he won the game. He is 1-1 with a 2.93 ERA in his career against the O’s.
The Orioles will start left-hander Wei-Yin Chen (0-1, 3.75 ERA). Chen gave up three runs on five hits and two walks while striking out three over 6 1/3 innings in a loss to Clay Buchholz and the Boston Red Sox. Chen was 1-2 with a 5.25 ERA against the Yankees in 2012.
Game-time will be 8:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by ESPN.
As spring training camps open it is time to look at the American League East competition for the New York Yankees. How will the other teams fare as they gear up to dethrone the 2011 division champions? Do these teams have the pitching? Is there enough offense? Let’s see.
PART 1 – BALTIMORE ORIOLES
The 2011 season began with a lot of optimism because of the great job Buck Showalter did in turning around the Orioles at the end of the 2010 season.
But 2011 was much like every season for the Orioles since 1999. It fizzled into frustration in a hurry. They finished with a record of 69-93 and they were a distant fifth in the A.L. East, 28 games behind the Yankees.
This coming season promises to pretty similar because the Orioles have not made a lot of changes to their roster. With the exeption of Jeremy Guthrie, Luke Scott and Derrek Lee, this pretty much the same group that floundered through much of 2011.
One big reason is that the Orioles banked their future hopes on a collection of young starting pitchers like Brian Matusz, Zach Britton, Jake Arrieta and Chris Tillman. They progressed through the minors but none of them have established themselves as major-league quality starters. And if you want to compete in this division, you have to have good starting pitching.
The Orioles compounded that issue by trading their best starting pitcher, Guthrie, to the Colorado Rockies for starter Jason Hammel and reliever Matt Lindstrom. As a result, the Orioles’ “ace” is former Rangers right-hander Tommy Hunter, who was 4-4 with a 4.68 ERA in an injury-shortened season.
The Orioles, led by general manager Dan Duquette, are now shifting their sites overseas and the team signed two pitchers from the Japanese League in Wei-Yin Chen and Tsuyoshi Wada.
Chen, 26, is a left-hander from Taiwan who has compiled a 36-30 record and a 2.48 ERA in four seasons with the Chunichi Dragons. He also has pretty good stuff with 500 career strikeouts in 631 1/3 innings.
Wada, 30, is another left-hander and he has overcome two injury-plagued seasons to compile a combined 33-13 record with a 2.29 ERA in the last two seasons with Fukuoda Softbank Hawks. While Chen has better stuff, Wada is considered to have better control.
Both figure prominently in the Orioles plans for 2012 and both likely will be in the rotation this season, depending on how they progress in the spring.
Hammel, 29, was 7-13 with a 4.76 ERA last season with the Rockies. The tall right-hander figures to be slotted as the No. 4 starter.
The Orioles still have high hopes for Matusz, Britton, Arrieta and Tillman. But it appears Britton and Arrieta are going to get most of the attention this spring. The lefty Britton suffered a shoulder injury last season and he finished the season 11-11 with a 4.61 ERA. Arrieta was 10-8 with 5.05 ERA.
The bullpen was a strength of this team when Koji Uehara was around but he was dealt to the Rangers at the trade deadline last July.
The closer job is up for grabs between incumbent closer Kevin Gregg, who saved 22 games but blew seven chances and was 0-3 with a 4.37 ERA, and Jim Johnson, who saved nine games and was 6-5 with a 2.67 ERA. Lindtsrom, who saved 23 games for the Astros in 2010, can also be shifted into the closer role.
The rest of the bullpen will likely be made up with lefty Darren O’Day and former starters Alfredo Simon, Brad Bergesen and Jason Berken.
A few years ago, the Orioles seem to invested their future into second baseman Brian Roberts, right-fielder Nick Markakis and center-fielder Adam Jones and have built around those players.
Unfortunately, Roberts has suffered through injury after injury and Markakis and Jones have underperformed expectations.
With the Orioles lack of ability to attract high-priced free-agent talent, the Orioles have to rely on that trio as the core of the team again.
The Orioles may also begin getting what they expected out of catcher Matt Wieters, who hit 22 home runs and won a Gold Glove for his defensive work behind the plate. The former No. 1 pick also is showing some signs of leadership on the team.
Shortstop J.J. Hardy finally shook off injuries that plagued him since he was with the Brewers in 2008 as he hit 30 home runs and drove in 80 runs.
Third baseman Mark Reynolds was pretty much as advertised. He did not hit for average and struck out 196 times but he also hit 37 home runs and drove in 87 runs.
Former Rangers first baseman Chris Davis is pretty much a carbon copy of Reynolds at first base only he does most of his striking out from the left side.
The Orioles will likely platoon veterans Endy Chavez and Nolan Reimold in the outfield and look for the Orioles to make a late bid for a DH.
They could re-sign veteran Vladimir Guerrero or chose from among Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui to replace Scott.
Former Yankee Wilson Betemit will be the top reserve on the infield and middle infield reserve Robert Andino will return to provide glovework behind Roberts and Hardy. Former Rangers backstop Taylor Teagarden will be the backup to Wieters.
The Orioles could use the spring to look for some veteran help in the outfield to bolster their bench a bit.
With Jones, Wieters, Hardy, Reynolds and Davis the Orioles seem to have plenty of firepower. Plus when Roberts is healthy and Markakis is going good, they can get on base and steal a base or two. But the overall offense may be too geared towards power over putting the ball iin play and advancing runners.
The Orioles, as a team, strike out way too much and it cost them because their pitching is not that strong.
The Orioles are gambling on two Japanese League pitchers and two journeyman American starters (Hunter and Hammel) to give them time to develop their young pitchers like Britton and Arrieta. The jury is still out on Matusz, who looked like a surefire star in the making in 2010.
Without a consistent starting rotation, any effort Showalter makes in the bullpen could prove futile. A good bullpen only limits the damage. The bullpen should be strong but it is obvious they are going to tire quickly if they are constantly coming in the fourth or fifth inning.
Barring another Showalter miracle, this team is headed for more frustration in 2012. They simply can’t compete with the big boys (Yankees, Rays, Red Sox) and they merely hold their own against the Blue Jays. If I were a betting man, I would suspect that the Orioles will finish fifth again.
It is a spot for which they are built.
ON TUESDAY – PART 2 TORONTO BLUE JAYS
YANKEES 11, ORIOLES 10
Some rookies arrive in the major leagues with so much hype they can never seem to be great enough to measure up to it. In just four games, Jesus Montero is writing a whole new chapter of his own greatness and nothing appears overhyped.
Montero, 21, hit his first and second major-league home runs and they proved to be the margin of victory as New York edged Baltimore in a Labor Day slugfest in front of 45,069 fans at Yankee Stadium on Monday.
With the game tied at 8-8 in the bottom of the fifth inning, Montero greeted Orioles reliever Jim Johnson by swatting an 0-1 fastball to the opposite field in right for his his first major-league home run. Yankee fans got on their feet and demanded a curtain call from their rookie power-hitting designated hitter. Montero complied and the Yankees had a 9-8 lead.
Before facing Montero in the fifth, Johnson had allowed only three home runs in 76 2/3 innings this season.
Two innings later, Johnson faced Montero again with one out and Russell Martin on first with a single. Johnson tried to pitch in to the rookie but on a 2-2 fastball, he missed over the plate and Montero hit an even longer blast into the right-field seats.
Yankee fans got on their feet and requested an encore curtain call from their new hero and Montero obliged. After four games, Montero is hitting .385 with two home runs and three RBIs.
Meanwhile, a fellow rookie Brett Lawrie of the Blue Jays made his impact on the 2010 division title race by cracking a walk-off solo home run with two out in the bottom of the 11th inning off Red Sox reliever Dan Wheeler as Toronto blanked Boston 1-0. The Yankees, who have won eight of their last nine games, have extended their lead in the American League East to 2 1/2 games over the Red Sox, who have dropped five of their last seven games.
The Yankees received a rare poor start from 34-year-old right-hander Freddy Garcia, who lasted only 2 2/3 innings and he gave up seven runs on nine hits. Garcia entered the game having thrown 15 quality starts in the 22 games he started this season. But he was victimized by four-run second inning and Mark Reynolds added a two-run home run in the third inning that drew the Orioles back to a one-run game at 8-7.
The Yankees pretty much did the same damage to the O’s’ young lefty Brian Matusz by scoring two runs in the first and adding six runs in the second inning.
Curtis Granderson chased Matusz in the second inning with a one-out, two-run double that drew the Yankees back to a one-run deficit at 5-4. However, Orioles reliever Chris Jakubauskas threw gasoline on the fire when he entered the game and walked Mark Teixeira, who hit his 36th home run of the season in his first at-bat, and hit Alex Rodriguez in the left arm on an 0-2 pitch to load the bases.
Jakubauskas paid dearly for his lack of control by giving up a grand slam home run to Robinson Cano, which landed well into the bleachers in right-center and gave the Yankees an 8-5 lead in an inning in which the Yankees sent 11 batters to the plate.
Matusz was touched up for five runs on five hits and two walks and he fanned three in 1 1/3 innings. Jakubauskas was charged with three runs on two hits and two walks in two-thirds of an inning.
However, Garcia could not keep Baltimore from scoring. Reynolds’ home run drew the Orioles back to within 8-7 and Garcia was removed after giving up a single to Ryan Adams with two outs in the third inning.
Newly signed and recently called up lefty Aaron Laffey surrendered a one-out solo home run to Robert Andino in the fifth inning that drew both teams even on the day.
But Montero’s two home runs provided the Yankees with a margin they actually really needed badly because their bullpen continued to crack.
Luis Ayala was touched for a run in the eighth on a one-out double by J.J. Hardy and a single to right by Nick Markakis that scored Hardy. Markakis took second on an error by Chris Dickerson, who was inserted into right as a defensive replacement for Andruw Jones when the inning started. However, Markakis was thrown out on a relay from Dickerson to Derek Jeter to Rodriguez, who applied the tag on Markakis at third base.
The Orioles added another run in the ninth off future Hall-of-Fame closer Mariano Rivera.
Reynolds stroked a one-out single and reached second on a stolen base. One out later, Ryan Adams delivered a single to center to score Reynolds to make it an 11-10 game.
Rivera then hit pinch-hitter Nolan Reimold on a 3-2 pitch. Reynolds and pinch-runner Matt Angle then moved up a base on a double steal. However, Rivera ended the rally right there by striking out Hardy looking on a 2-2 pitch on the outside corner. For Rivera it was a very shaky 38th save in 43 opportunities this season.
Rivera now has 597 saves in his career and he soon could pass all-time saves leader Trevor Hoffman, who has 601.
Laffey (2-1) got credit for the victory in relief. Johnson (5-5) took the loss.
With the victory the Yankees’ season record stands at 86-53. The Orioles fell to 55-84 and they 31 games out of first in last place in the division.
- When the Montero legend grows to epic proportions over the years you can say you were there to see the first two home runs and three RBis. When Montero was recalled on Sept. 1, manager Joe Girardi made it clear that Montero would start as the right-hand DH against left-handers. After this Labor Day exhibition, teams may revise their rotations to make sure they throw just right-handers. Montero easily blasted two long home runs to the opposite field in two at-bats. That is some major-league skills for just a 21-year-old rookie. General manager Brian Cashman better not trade this guy. It will be over my dead body. He is a keeper.
- Cano extended his hitting streak to nine games with a single in the first inning. In the second inning he launched his third grand slam of the season. Before his nine-game hitting streak started, Cano had a 17-game hitting streak snapped at Baltimore on Aug. 28. Over his last 27 games, Cano is 39-for-112 (.348) with six home runs and 30 RBIs. With Cano’s four RBIs he passed Adrian Gonzalez for second place in the A.L. with 105 RBIs. Cano trails teammate Curtis Granderson by four RBIs.
- Granderson took over the major-league lead in RBIs with his two-run double in the second inning. Granderson leads the Brewers’ Cecil Fielder by two and the Phillies’ Ryan Howard by three. A few weeks ago it seemed Granderson’s competition for MVP would come from Adrian Gonzalez and Jacoby Ellsbury of the Red Sox. It appears that Cano is entering the discussion now.
- Brett Gardner was the only Yankee starter without a hit. He was o-for-4 with two strikeouts looking and two routine infield grounders. To show how bad Gardner’s day at the plate was he made two of the three outs of the second inning. He started the inning out by striking out looking and ended the inning with a groundout. Gardner’s season average is down to .266
- Garcia was unable to keep his pitches down and it cost him dearly in this game. Of the 18 batters he faced, 10 of them reached base. This also refuels the discussion from so-called”experts” who say that the Yankees will regret using Garcia and Bartolo Colon in the playoffs because they will not pitch as well as they did during the regular season against inferior offenses. Garcia entered the game with the second-lowest ERA of the Yankee starters at 3.09. After this game it is now up to 3.50.
- Rivera did not look sharp in his inning of work. After giving up two hits, he hit Reimold on a 3-2 pitch to load the bases. In the 27 pitches Rivera threw, 12 were balls. That is not the usual Rivera. Let’s hope it is a hiccup and not a trend going forward.
The Yankees continue their three-game series with the Orioles on Tuesday.
The Yankees will start or audition, if you prefer, Phil Hughes (4-5, 6.75 ERA). Hughes allowed six runs on eight hits and two walks in 5 2/3 innings against the Red Sox in a 9-5 loss last Wednesday. However, Girardi saw enough positives in the effort to give Hughes another shot to stay in the rotation. Hughes is 4-2 with 5.51 ERA in his career against the Orioles.
The Orioles will throw right-hander Tommy Hunter (2-1, 6.21 ERA). Hunter has gone at least six innings in his last six starts for the Orioles. He is 1-1 with a 6.06 ERA in his career against the Bronx Bombers.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.