It says something about the Yankees right now that they can be shut out by the division rival Orioles and still claim to be satisfied. Sure, a sweep would have been nice, but save the hand-wringing for another time. Right now, Joe Girardi said, this is a team on a mission.
“It’s not what you want but we’re playing good baseball and we’re winning series and that’s what you need to continue to do,” Girardi said after Sunday’s 5-0 loss at Yankee Stadium. “If someone says you’re going to win a series against Baltimore, you’re going to be pretty positive . . . I’m not down. I thought we played very well this weekend and we need to continue to do that and if we continue to do that, we’ll take our chances.”
The truth is, all of this wasn’t going to last forever. Eventually, the Yankees’ offense was going to settle down. Eventually, a team would be able to keep Gary Sanchez in the park. And eventually, someone would snuff out the fuse on these Baby Bombers, even if just for a little while.
Despite a rotation decimated by injury, Kevin Gausman and the Orioles were finally able to shut down a Yankees team that entered Sunday having scored 37 runs in its previous four games, all victories. Instead, the Yankees got nothing, and Sanchez — gasp! — didn’t hit a home run. He went 2-for-4 with a double instead. Steve Pearce and Mark Trumbo both hit home runs to contribute to the Orioles’ major league-leading total of 204 homers.
Gausman pitched seven innings, allowing seven hits with a walk and nine strikeouts.
But none of that, Girardi implied, minimizes what the team has done. In a month, they’ve gone from trade-deadline sellers — a rebuilding team — to a squad with a legitimate shot at one of the wild-card spots. Despite the loss, they’re 67-62 and 3 1⁄2 games out of the second slot (though they’ve got five teams to leapfrog to get there, including the Orioles).
The Yankees offense wasted a second straight strong performance from CC Sabathia. For six innings, the 36-year-old was downright vintage Sabathia — in result, that is, not execution. Hardly the overpowering pitcher of yore, Sabathia instead stymied the hard-hitting Orioles with a steady diet of cutters, sliders and the occasional well-placed fastball. No Oriole advanced past second base until the sixth.
Sabathia’s most costly error was leading off that inning — his 74th pitch of the afternoon, a 92-mph sinker to Steve Pearce, ended up in the leftfield seats to give the Orioles a 1-0 lead. Manny Machado singled one batter later, but Sabathia coaxed a ground ball out of Trumbo, good for an inning-ending 5-4-3 double play. Sabathia got into trouble again in the seventh, allowing a one-out single to Jonathan Schoop, a two-out single to Nolan Reimold, and a four-pitch walk to Hyun Soo Kim, which ended his day.
Sabathia left the game with a standing ovation, but ended the day with a loss. With the bases loaded and two outs, reliever Adam Warren went 2-and-2 on Pearce, who again made the Yankees pay. He singled to the left side of the drawn-in infield to score two and make it 3-0. The Orioles added on in the eighth on Trumbo’s two-run homer off Ben Heller, his league-leading 40th of the season.
Sabathia (8-11) pitched 6 2⁄3 innings, allowing three runs and six hits with eight strikeouts and two walks.
The Yankees’ only real threat came in the fourth. Sanchez led off the inning with a hard-hit single to center, but got tagged out at third trying to stretch on Mark Teixeira’s single. Didi Gregorius singled, and Starlin Castro reached on a fielder’s choice, but Brian McCann struck out to quash the threat and keep the game scoreless.
“It’s baseball,” Sabathia said, disappointed but not distraught. “Yeah, of course [I’m having fun]. You always want to try to win games. It’s a long season . . . [But] it’s a good vibe in here.”
AL Wild Card Standings
Team W L Pct. GB
*Boston 72 57 .558 +1.5
Baltimore 71 59 .546 —
Detroit 69 61 .531 2
Houston 68 62 .523 3
Seattle 68 62 .523 3
Yankees 67 62 .519 3.5
*Kansas City 67 62 .519 3.5
*not including last night’s game