May 7, 2015; Bronx, NY, USA; Baltimore Orioles starting pitcher Chris Tillman (30) pitches during the first inning against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports
The Baltimore Orioles have a way of losing games, while the New York Yankees have a certain way of winning games. Both were on display Thursday night as the Yankees defeated the Birds 4-3.
New York improves their AL East-leading record to 18-11, while the O’s drop to 12-14. This is not what we expected to see, say, a month ago.
If the Yankees are going to have success, it is going to have to come in the style that was seen last night. They are going to need to keep some pressure on the other team’s starter, which they did by having baserunners against Chris Tillman in every inning and pounding out 10 hits in 5.2 innings.
As well, New York needs to hope to put together some hits in close proximity and get a few runs – which they did in the first inning; and they will hope also that perhaps one of their aging power hitters can get the fat part of the bat on the ball – which A-Rod did for his 661st home run.
Finally, the Yankees hope to have a lead after the sixth inning so that they can turn it over to their bullpen to pretty much finish off an opponent. Justin Wilson pitched well and got them through to the end of the seventh inning, turning it over to Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller – neither of whom have yet been scored upon this year. Miller earned his 12th save, and you might note that this is the same number of team wins possessed by the Orioles. Just sayin.’
On the other hand, the Orioles lost in a fashion they typically display when the motor is not firing fully on all cylinders. Runs will be at a premium, while the starter will run high pitch counts and give up just enough to dig a hole. Home runs will be solo shots. A baserunning blunder will blow up a potential big inning. And Adam Jones or another key hitter will drill a screaming liner or two right at someone. All of these components happened on Thursday night.
Also contributing to a hole of epic proportions in the middle of the lineup is Chris Davis striking out in every trip to the plate – a total of four. This makes 7-of-8 over two nights and 9-of-12 over the past three games. This simply can’t happen in the 3rd, 4th, or 5th spot in the order. He needs to be dropped to 7th or something like that.
Honestly, the Yankees are not a great team. They are rather mediocre with a great back end of the bullpen. But this is a baseball formula to at least win more games than are lost. It turns the ballgame into one where a team will only be seriously challenged for the first six innings (if that many), while, unless facing a similarly-constructed team, they have nine innings in which to score.
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I have become a believer in paying substantial dollars for shutdown relievers and back-end pitchers. There are not a lot of these guys in the game, but if you have a couple of them, you’ve really got something.
Though Nick Markakis and Nelson Cruz are off to great starts, I don’t want them back for the dollars and deals they got. Time will work against it, I am convinced. But I would have signed Andrew Miller for the bucks he got, and then prepared to keep Zach Britton and Darren O’Day. That would have put the O’s in a position as a team that is generally hitting for nine innings, while the opponent generally only has six in which to score in a close game.
Since I’m being cranky, I’ll even go so far as to criticize Buck. Really Buck? Ryan Lavarnway pinch-hitting for Travis Snider in the 9th inning? Yes, Miller is a tough lefty. But Snider hit .381 off lefties last year, and over his career is hitting .261 versus .245 against right-handers. Lavarnway is no upgrade, and he was lost and struck out quickly.
The Orioles need an immediate turnaround. How about today?