There’s a tendency, when you look at this Yankees lineup, to think there’s no deficit they can’t overcome and no team they can’t beat into submission.
It certainly seemed that way Wednesday, when the three-headed hydra of Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Gary Sanchez each hit a two-run homer, sending sports radio and back pages into a tizzy that they’ve been anticipating for months. But Thursday provided another reminder: This is baseball, and — to borrow a phrase — you just can’t predict baseball.
The offense that feasted the day before faltered against the Orioles as the Yankees squandered a few late-game opportunities and lost, 5-2, at the Stadium.
In addition, the bullpen, which has been surprisingly shaky, faltered in a game-defining seventh. The Orioles scored all five of their runs against Masahiro Tanaka, who made one big mistake, and Chad Green, who made a bunch of little ones.
The bullpen has been charged with 16 runs in 21 2⁄3 innings and also has allowed two inherited runners to score; the starters have been charged with 10 runs in 39 1⁄3 innings.
“I’m not seeing any downtick in the stuff,” Aaron Boone said of his bullpen. “I just think they got us a few times . . . There’s no red flags for me stuff-wise.”
Green was charged with two runs and three hits in two-thirds of an inning and also allowed an inherited runner to score. Tanaka displayed some of the dominance he had in his 2018 debut, but Adam Jones drove a hanging slider into the left-centerfield bleachers for a two-run homer, spelling the beginning of the end of his night. Tanaka was charged with three runs and allowed six hits and no walks in 6 1⁄3 innings, striking out seven.
“Obviously, there’s a lot of frustration there,” Tanaka said through an interpreter. “That’s the inning you don’t want to give up a run. To give up a homer like that, especially after scoring a run [the inning before], it’s disappointing and frustrating.”
The Yankees did threaten in the seventh and eighth but left five runners on base in that span. And that three-headed hydra? They went 1-for-11, though that “one” was Judge’s solo homer in the sixth.
Judge has owned the Orioles, compiling a .426/.588/1.049 slash line with 11 homers and 24 RBIs in 19 games last year. With two outs in the sixth, he took matters into his own (sizable) hands, jacking Andrew Cashner’s 2-and-1 slider over the wall in right-center for his second homer and a 1-0 lead.
It was his 58th career homer in his 189th game — the fastest anyone has ever accomplished that feat — but that moment of euphoria was short-lived. Jones turned on Tanaka’s slider and drilled it to left-center over a leaping Stanton for a two-run homer and a 2-1 lead. One batter later, Tim Beckham singled, ending Tanaka’s night, and Green allowed an RBI double by Anthony Santander. Trey Mancini’s two-run single made it 5-1, and the Orioles were well on their way to snapping their losing streak at five games.
The Yankees did manage to get one back in the bottom of the seventh when Neil Walker — who also made a nifty play, nearly falling into the dugout while catching a foul ball in the sixth — singled home Didi Gregorius. But coming to the plate as the tying run, Miguel Andujar popped up, ending the inning.
“We really couldn’t get anything going,” said Judge, who never got his chance to victimize the Orioles from his place in the on-deck circle in the ninth. “You always want that last at-bat in a close situation.”