Baltimore Orioles second baseman Jonathan Schoop has indeed been a Yankees killer all season. He previously hit two big home runs off Masahiro Tanaka, and on Wednesday evening drove a game-tying solo shot off Dellin Betances in the eighth inning that may prove to be the fatal blow for the 2014 Yankees season.
The actual game-winning shot that might be more remembered was a three-run homer by Adam Jones after a two-out single by Nick Markakis and walk by Chris Davis. Jones’ ball barely cleared the fence into the Orioles bullpen, putting them ahead 5-2 at that point. As always, the Yankees make it interesting in the ninth inning, but Zach Britton and the O’s prevailed in the end 5-3.
But the momentum-shifting moment was the Schoop blast.
There has been a lot of debate in Orioles circles about whether Jonathan Schoop should be in the majors this year. His average has hovered around the .215 to .220 mark most of the season. He may well have benefitted by more experience in AAA, but his defense has been mostly outstanding and he has had some critical home runs – totaling 11 on the season now.
If for no other reason than his seasonal performance against the New York Yankees, Schoop has earned his keep with simply that. He is a big reason the Birds are now 8-3 against them this year. Four of his home runs (and 11 RBIs) have been against NY. He is batting .367 on 11-for-30.
Betances is arguably the best arm in the American League right now (I would take that argument as true). His current ERA is 1.52 over a total of 71.1 innings; and that is just the beginning of his impressive stats. He is the strikeout leader among relief pitchers with a total of 106, which means he strikes out 13.4 batters-per-nine-innings thrown! His WHIP is 0.74 and batting average against = .134.
So after New York starter Michael Pineda mowed down the first 12 Orioles hitters, only to finally give up a single run in the fifth inning that cut the Yankees’ lead to 2-1, Betances was brought on for a multiple-inning outing. Clearly, this was a must-win game in the mind of Joe Girardi.
In 51 previous games, Betances has been called upon to go 2.0 innings in 12 of them. Only once did he pitch 2.1 innings. On this evening, Girardi was going to go with him for a full three innings. The only bad pitch by Betances was his last – with one out in the eighth inning to Jonathan Schoop, who hit the hanger about two rows deep into the left-field seats.
The eighth inning four-run outburst made a winner of Darren O’Day (4-1) with a 25th save for Britton. Chris Tillman pitched seven innings with only a two-run shot by Francisco Cervelli to count against him. He was not as sharp as some of his better games, but he battled and seemed to get better and more efficient as the game wore on – a trait we’ve seen from Tillman this season that accrues much to his credit.
There are good wins, and there are great wins. This was an extraordinarily great win. It puts the Orioles at 69-50 on the season and eight games ahead of the Yankees. The Blue Jays (at the time of this writing, pending the outcome of their late game against Seattle) are seven games behind. It is the largest divisional lead in all of baseball.
After a day off on Thursday the Orioles will be in Cleveland for a three-game battle, opening the series against perhaps the hottest pitcher in baseball right now. It never gets easier, does it? More on that next time. Right now let’s have a great day reflecting on Schoop killing the hope!