The whole beat-up-on-the-bad-teams-this-season thing is off to a lousy start for the Yankees.
After waltzing past the Orioles on Opening Day, they managed to drop two in a row to the worst team the American League has to offer, falling to Baltimore, 7-5, on Sunday in front of a sparse and irritated crowd at Yankee Stadium.
“Not the start we wanted,” said J.A. Happ, speaking of the team but also himself after allowing two homers in the first three innings that put the Yankees down 4-0. “We can play a lot better than we’ve played, I know that.”
The Yankees lost their opening series to an Orioles team that went 47-115 last season and is expected to finish with a similar record in 2019. It brought back memories of last year, when the Yankees split their first 12 games against Baltimore en route to going 12-7 against the Orioles (the Red Sox were 16-3).
Maybe a few thousand members of the announced gathering of 38,419 were left at the end. They made their displeasure known throughout the game, which began 3 hours, 17 minutes late because of rain.
Sunday’s setback came about because of Happ’s rough outing, but more because of a lack of success with runners in scoring position.
The Yankees, who stranded 11 runners Saturday, went 2-for-13 with runners in scoring position Sunday and stranded 14. They had nine hits and drew eight walks but struck out 14 times.
“We had them on the ropes but just weren’t able to get the job done,” said Aaron Judge, who punched a two-out, two-run single to right in the fourth to move the Yankees within 4-3. “Like I said [Saturday], we have to play like our backs are against the wall, but any team should play like that, like they have to win every game. That’s our goal. We came up short.”
DJ LeMahieu’s two-out RBI single in the ninth against Mychal Givens made it 7-5. Lefty Paul Fry came on to face Brett Gardner, who gave way to pinch hitter Troy Tulowitzki, and he struck out to end the 3-hour, 48-minute game.
Gary Sanchez’s solo homer to leftfield in the seventh pulled the Yankees within 5-4. Stephen Tarpley allowed a two-out, two-run homer by Joey Rickard to make it 7-4 in the eighth.
Givens escaped a bases-loaded jam in the eighth by getting Luke Voit to ground to short. Voit also took a called third strike to leave the bases loaded in the third.
“Over the course of the season, you’re going to have peaks and valleys like that,’’ Aaron Boone said. “That’s what the traffic’s about. That’s why over time when you create traffic, we’re going to get our share of hits, but early in the season, first three games here, that’s kind of been the difference right now is us not being able to break through. We just got to keep grinding away.”
The Yankees should create more traffic starting Monday against Detroit, a team predicted to be nearly as bad as the Orioles. But don’t tell Boone that.
“I’m not in the projection business, first of all. I reject that all the way,” he said. “We have no idea who people are [going to be this season]. We have high expectations for ourselves. The bottom line is we think we’re going to be a really good team and you’re going to have series where you don’t put your best foot forward, and I’m confident that we’re really close to doing that, and we plan on that starting tomorrow night.”