BALTIMORE — It’s only five games into the season, so by sheer law of averages, the Yankees are sure to have worse days than Saturday.
Still, this one will be tough to beat.
Even a victory, to a degree, would have been overshadowed by what occurred in the fifth inning at Camden Yards when Gary Sanchez, a cornerstone in the franchise’s youth movement, left with a strained right biceps and landed on the disabled list.
But the Yankees didn’t get the victory, either. Because of an erratic five innings by Masahiro Tanaka and another hiccup by their bullpen, they blew a three-run lead — less than 24 hours after blowing a four-run lead — and took a brutal 5-4 loss to the Orioles that dropped them to 1-4.
“Today wasn’t ideal, losing the lead and Sanchy getting hurt,” Brett Gardner said. “Kind of like a kick in the stomach.”
Joe Girardi said he couldn’t say how long Sanchez will be lost — he’ll be further evaluated by doctors Monday or Tuesday in New York — but in the meantime, Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre catcher Kyle Higashioka has been summoned from the minors and will serve as Austin Romine’s backup.
“It felt kind of like when you pull a hamstring. It was the same feeling,” Sanchez said through his translator. “After I felt it, I tried to do a warmup swing and I couldn’t do it.”
Sanchez got hurt swinging at a 97-mph fastball from Kevin Gausman in the top of the fifth. He said he has “no fear” about this being something that sidelines him long-term.
“It’s an injury, so the mentality is to just wait and see what happens,” he said.
If there is positive news, it’s that the injury appears to be to the biceps muscle, not a tendon, and is not elbow-related.
Joe Girardi, a former catcher, said he’s hoping for the best but knows an injury to the throwing arm complicates things. That could keep Sanchez out much longer than 10 days and is something to worry about.
“Yeah, of course you do when you’re talking about the throwing arm,” Girardi said. “When you see a guy come out of the game and hold it like that, you’re really concerned.”
There was plenty to be concerned about Saturday.
Five games into the season, the Yankees have not had a starting pitcher go deeper than five innings. Tanaka was better than he had been in the opener, when he lasted 2 2⁄3 innings in a 7-3 loss to the Rays, but far from good. The righthander brought a 4-1 lead into the bottom of the fifth and allowed two critical runs in a 35-pitch frame, which included a walk and a hit batsman, allowing the Orioles (4-0) to draw within 4-3.
“Felt like I had good command of the ball the first three innings, but the fourth inning, fifth inning, that command started getting out of sync,” said Tanaka, who pitched to 15 Orioles in those two innings.
The Yankees’ bullpen then gave up a lead for the second straight game.
After Adam Warren pitched a scoreless 1 1⁄3 innings, lefty Tommy Layne came on with one out in the seventh to face Chris Davis, who doubled off the wall in right. Dellin Betances came in to face Mark Trumbo, who dumped a curveball into center for an RBI single that tied it at 4.
Trumbo stole second — continuing Betances’ difficulties with runners on — and, after Welington Castillo flied to center, Hyun Soo Kim sent a full-count curveball to right for an RBI single that made it 5-4.
Orioles setup man Brad Brach issued a pair of two-out walks in the eighth but got Ronald Torreyes, who had a two-run single in the second, to pop out.
Zach Britton then converted a save opportunity for the 52nd consecutive time with a scoreless ninth, getting Chris Carter on a long drive to center with a runner on first to end the game.
“We had a chance to win these last couple games. We let them slip away,” said Betances, who was most upset with the curveball that Trumbo hit. “It’s tough, but we have to bounce back. Obviously, losing Sanchez hurts a lot. It’s hard to replace him, so we have to do our best until he comes back.”