The essence of the rivalry between the Orioles and the Yankees revealed itself last night. Tense, cerebral, nail-biting, four-hour pitching duels have defined their contests over the past three decades. Add managers Buck Showalter and Joe Girardi into the mix, two of the game's great tacticians and you're in for a satisfying nine course movable feast.
In the 4th, the Yankees loaded the bases with one out. With the count full, Gausman uncorked a mid-80s splitter that dove to the bottom of the strike zone. Starlin Castro couldn't hold up and swung at ball four. The game hung in the balance and Castro had the chance to alter it. Brian McCann hit a fly ball to deep center for the final out.
In the bottom of the inning, an error by the rookie right fielder Aaron Judge on a Chris Davis single allowed Mark Trumbo to score from second base.
Sabathia brilliantly worked the edges last night. He relies on location to confuse the hitters -- extending them little-by-little into his zones. He mixes speeds and locations and then sneaks fastballs by hitters. It's difficult to pick up the ball because of his mammoth presence and his ability to hide the pill. He has great success against Baltimore but he made one mistake. In the fifth with two out, Sabathia left a ball up and in the middle of the plate for Adam Jones, who connected for his 26th home run.
Writers often talk about persona. Pitchers are no different. Since losing his Kent Tekulve spectacles and growing a goatee, Kevin Gausman is on a streak of nineteen scoreless innings. He no longer grooves ninety-five mile an hour fastballs down the middle of the plate. His ball bends and darts as it reaches the hitter.
Both teams played solid defense and O's third baseman Manny Machado once again flashed his prowess on a ball hit by Brett Gardner. Orioles closer Zach Britton notched his 42nd consecutive save in preserving the win.
This series is the exact opposite of what happened last week in New York when the Yanks took the first two games. American League East teams spend so much time trying to beat each other, they often lose touch with the rest of baseball where the Cubs, Giants, Dodgers, Rangers, Mets and Nationals lie in wait.
The Orioles gained a game in the Wildcard hunt and crept closer to the division leading Blue Jays.
Only 30,000 fans showed up last night and much has been written including this screed by Thom Loverro in the Washington Times as to why fans aren't going to Oriole games this year. Was it last year's riots that led to the first Major League baseball game ever in any empty stadium? Are the Orioles bad marketers? Are tickets too expensive? It made me recall a moment in Fenway Park during the 1990 playoffs when the Red Sox pulled Roger Clemens after six innings and a one-run lead. Fans headed for the exits. They knew how bad their bullpen was.
There were enough people there for me to hear the boos directed at Mark Teixeira, the Severna Park native and Mt. St. Joe grad who spurned the Orioles offer in 2009. That's now lasted seven years. It's a fickle city--a place where former Oriole pitcher turned Yankee Mike Mussina is referred to as Judas on message boards.
The last two nights, Oriole pitching has shutout the Yankees. Going back to last Sunday's game, the Yankees haven't scored a run against the Orioles in 27 innings. The last time that happened to the Bombers was in 1973. Oriole starters have been untouchable. The lack of off season moves in the pitching department is a sore spot with O's fans but it's being dealt with.
According to some, Baltimore has always been "a football town with a baseball problem." Legendary manager Earl Weaver was jealous of the city's love for the Colts. Take the poet Moira Egan who hails from Baltimore. Moira and I were born in the same hospital only months apart. Our fathers ran the streets of West Baltimore together during the late '50s. She happens to be in town this weekend from Rome, Italy--attending a wedding and partaking in crab feasts.
"I'm more of a football gal, but when I home, I get the O's report every morning," she writes.
"He needed an axe handle, so he took that bat and made one."