Saturday, April 8, 2017

Insult to Injury: Sanchez Gets Hurt, Bullpen Blows Lead. Yanks Drop Third Straight, 5-4

On a sun-drenched Saturday afternoon in the Ballpark at Camden Yards, the New York Yankees and the Baltimore Orioles squared off in game two of the three-game weekend set. Both of today's starters, Masahiro Tanaka and Kevin Gausman, were looking to rebound from subpar 2017 debuts. But for the second straight game, neither starter was able to work into the sixth and it became another battle of the bullpens. And for the second straight game, New York's bullpen played the role of choke artist.

Although there were no runs to speak of in the first inning, there was a bit of history to report. Matt Holliday collected the 2000th hit of his career by lining a single into right field in the top of the first. According to YES Network color commentator Ken Singleton, Holliday became just the 279th player of the 19,000 player history of Major League Baseball to reach the milestone. Congrats Matt.

After a scoreless opening frame, the Yankees were first to hit the scoreboards in the top of the second. Chase Headley started the rally with a one-out walk, advancing to third when the next better Aaron Hicks drilled a double into left-center field. The number nine hitter Ronald Torreyes then came through with a ground ball single to right field that scored both runners to put the Bombers up 2-0. Impressively, the RBI were Torreyes' fourth and fifth in just five games, which actually leads the team now. Not too shabby for a guy who's supposed to be the defensive specialist who's taking over for the injured Didi Gregorius.

Baltimore waited a few innings but was able to get one of those runs back in the bottom of the fourth. Manny Machado started the frame off with a walk, advancing to second on a rare Orioles steel of second. After retiring Chris Davis and Mark Trumbo, Tanaka served up a humpback liner to Wellington Castillo for a single, scoring Machado from second to make it a 2-1 contest.

Yankee fans held their collective breath in the top of the fifth when Gary Sanchez had to be taken out of the game. During a lengthy leadoff at bat, Sanchez stepped out of the batter's box to take a practice swing and bellowed over in pain while clutching his right arm. Manager Joe Girardi immediately came out of the dugout with an interpreter to talk to Sanchez, only to find out that his star catcher needed to be taken to the clubhouse with what was later reported as a right biceps strain. Austin Romine took over for Sanchez and completed the at-bat by earning a leadoff walk, advancing to third base on a Jacoby Ellsbury single to right. And then in the "not something you see every day" department, Gausman balked a pickoff throw to third that allowed Romine to score and moved Ellsbury to second. And Ellsbury being on second proved costly as Starlin Castro smacked a single into left field, plating Ellsbury and extending New York's lead to three. It was nice to see the Yankees finally add some insurance runs, but you hate to see it come at the expense your best player.

It didn't take long for the O's to respond as they got both of those runs back in the bottom of the fifth. Seth Smith started the inning with a single to right, advancing to second when Adam Jones was hit by a pitch. Manny Machado then smoked a double to right field that scored Smith and moved Jones to third, 4-2. After Chris Davis walked to load the bases with still no outs, Mark Trumbo grounded into what looked like a double play but was later overturned as an RBI fielders choice, leaving runners on first and third with one out. Tanaka then walked Wellington Castillo to reload the bases, only to strike out Hyun-Soo Kim and then got Jonathan Schoop to pop out to end the inning and the threat. Having thrown 36 pitches in just the fifth, Tanaka's day was done; leaving after throwing five innings, allowing three runs on six hits with a rare four walks, two hit-batsmen and five strikeouts.

Although Adam Warren worked a perfect 1.1 innings, a combination of Tommy Layne and Dellin Betances allowed the Orioles to take the lead in the bottom of the seventh. With one out, Layne served up a double to Chris Davis and was taken out for Betances. Dellin immediately gave up a single to Trumbo that scored Davis to tie the game at five. The next batter Hyun-Soo Kim lined a single into right field that drove in Trumbo and gave the Orioles their first lead of the night at 6-5. For the second straight night, I had to do everything in my power not to throw my remote through the television.

Having converted 51 consecutive save opportunities, the Yankees had no chance of making any offenseive noise against Zach Britton in the ninth, dropping their third consecutive game.

After spending the off-season in such excited anticipation, the first week of the season has been an absolute letdown and doesn't appear to be getting better anytime soon.

The Yankees will look to avoid the weekend sweep tomorrow afternoon, with the first pitch scheduled for 1:35 PM/EST.

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