Orioles breathing down Yankees’ necks
Ready to panic yet? Yankees manager Joe Girardi says no. Yankees player say no. Yankees fans? Now that is a different story.
You could tell by the moaning sounds coming from the Yankee Stadium crowd of 42,352 Friday night that Yankees Universe may be falling into a panic mode. The Orioles’ 6-1 victory reduced the Yankees’ lead in the American League East to two games over Baltimore. If the Yanks don’t get their game together, they might lose all of that 10-game lead they had back on July 18.
Girardi has made a rotation change to try and stem the tide. Freddy Garcia was supposed to start Saturday but has been pushed back to Monday night at St. Petersburg, Fla. David Phelps will go instead Saturday and Phil Hughes Sunday against an Orioles squad that has been the surprise of baseball this year.
Baltimore’s record is 15 games above .500 for the first time in 15 years. Not since the last week of the 1997 season have the Orioles been this high above par. It has been an amazing season for the Orioles, considering they have been outscored by 39 runs. My old pal, Gary Thorne, the O’s television play-by-play announcer, explained that the reason for that is because the Orioles are winning a ton of one-run (24-6) and two-run (22-12) games.
Friday night was no one- or two-run game for the Orioles. They struck for three runs in the second inning off Hiroki Kuroda on a sacrifice fly by Chris Davis and a two-run home run by Mark Reynolds and made all that stand up. Kuroda, who lasted one out into the ninth, gave up a solo home run to J.J. Hardy in the sixth. Baltimore added two tag-on runs in the ninth off Derek Lowe, one on Reynolds’ second homer of the game. Curtis Granderson’s 34th home run with one out in the ninth off reliever Brian Matusz prevented the Yankees from being shut out.
It was the next worse thing to that, though. The Yankees once again failed to give Kuroda ample run support. In this case, no run support at all. Kuroda has the fourth lowest run support total of any starting pitcher in the AL. The Yanks managed four hits, all singles, off O’s starter Miguel Gonzalez (6-3), who had a sneaky fastball that resulted in one walk and nine strikeouts in seven innings.
“His fastball was quicker than we expected,” Girardi said, “and he got his breaking balls over behind in the count.”
A dangerous combination, to be sure. The Yankees struck out 11 times in the game, including Nick Swisher taking the golden sombrero with four Ks.
The Yankees threatened to get back into the game in the sixth. Trailing, 4-0, they got the first two batters on base, but Derek Jeter, Swisher and Robinson Cano could not get the ball out of the infield. The next inning, they had two on and two out but Ichiro Suzuki grounded out. So their offense turned out to be nothing more than Granderson’s dinger.
Girardi called what the Yankees are going through “a little rut.” Perhaps, so, but it has also led to a little gap between them and the Orioles.