BALTIMORE — Jordan Montgomery had far from his best stuff, but it would be inaccurate to tag the rookie lefthander as the primary cause of the Yankees’ 3-2 loss to the Orioles on Monday at Camden Yards.
No, an offense that has slumped a bit the last couple of weeks and a critical error by Starlin Castro that contributed to two unearned runs were far more culpable.
“That really hurt,” Joe Girardi said of Castro’s one-out miscue in the third. It helped extend an inning in which Jonathan Schoop hit a two-out, two-run double that snapped a 1-1 tie. “You don’t know what happens later that inning if you get that out, but when you look at it, we gave them a couple of unearned runs and we lost by one.”
Castro, shifted behind second base, committed the error on Mark Trumbo’s chopper, charging and booting the ball as it approached the bag.
“Not the best hop, but that’s a play I should make,” Castro said. “It’s a bad feeling because it’s a tie game.”
Still, looking big picture at the Yankees as the calendar turns past Memorial Day, one of the baseball season’s unofficial markers, it’s hard to react to one loss with alarm. They’re 29-19 and lead the AL East by three games, and they did get another home run from Aaron Judge. He hit his 17th in the seventh, a line shot that traveled an estimated 431 feet to center, to pass Mike Trout for the major-league lead.
It certainly was a much-needed victory for the Orioles (26-23), who had lost seven straight and 13 of 16.
Montgomery (2-4, 4.11), who said it was his responsibility to “buckle down” after Castro’s error, never truly righted himself after a 34-pitch first inning. He did well to limit the damage as his pitch count ballooned to 100, allowing three runs (one earned) and eight hits in 4 1⁄3 innings.
“I didn’t think he had good command of his curveball or changeup today,” Girardi said of two pitches Montgomery relies on heavily. Jonathan Holder and Chasen Shreve pitched 3 2⁄3 scoreless innings to keep the Yankees close.
The Yankees had only seven hits, but other than Judge’s homer that made it 3-2, nothing much happened offensively. Castro was hit by a pitch in the second and scored on Aaron Hicks’ sacrifice fly to tie it at 1.
Dylan Bundy (6-3, 2.89) allowed two runs and seven hits in seven innings. After Darren O’Day pitched a perfect eighth, Brad Brach pitched a perfect ninth for his 10th save, striking out Judge for the second out.
“He left a couple over the middle that we didn’t capitalize on,” Judge said of Bundy. “We’d get a couple on and he just executed when he had to.”
The Orioles turned three double plays. In the third, Brett Gardner (2-for-4) led off with a double and Gary Sanchez skied a fly to medium left. Knowing that the scouting reports said Trey Mancini has a below-average arm, Gardner tried for third and was out on a close play. The Yankees would not put another runner in scoring position.
“He made a perfect throw,” Gardner said. “If I had to do it over again, I’d do the exact same thing. I don’t think he could make that throw but one or two times out of 10.”
Girardi had no issues with Gardner’s call.
“From our scouting reports, we got that as being an OK play,” Girardi said. “Probably the best throw he’s made all year. It’s bang-bang. I’m OK with it.”