BALTIMORE — First things first.
There are no must-win games on April 9 of a major-league baseball season. Still, having blown sizable leads in their previous two games and about to begin an indefinite period without injured catcher Gary Sanchez, the Yankees needed to flip the script on an ugly start sooner rather than later.
“I think today’s an important game,” Joe Girardi said late Sunday morning. “We have to turn it around today.”
With CC Sabathia going six solid innings and Ronald Torreyes, Aaron Judge and Starlin Castro providing big hits that had been missing, the Yankees did, erupting for four runs in the ninth inning for a 7-3 victory over the Orioles before 42,487 at Camden Yards.
“It’s the first week, but I felt like this was a game we needed to win,” said Sabathia, who allowed three runs (two earned) and six hits in six innings, the longest start of any Yankee through six games. It was the first time a Yankees starter recorded an out in the sixth.
The Yankees prevented a three-game sweep and enter Monday’s home opener 2-4 rather than 1-5, which would have been their worst start since 1989. The Orioles are 4-1.
“To come back in that game, it just shows the team that we have,” said Dellin Betances, who picked up the win with a perfect eighth inning after taking the loss Saturday. “We’re not going to give up, we’re going to keep fighting. Obviously, losing Gary is a tough blow for us, but we have to be able to pick it up.”
The Yankees, who had blown a four-run lead Friday night and a three-run lead Saturday afternoon, rallied from a 3-0 deficit, getting a tying homer from Judge off Mychal Givens in the eighth before taking apart sidearmer Darren O’Day in the ninth.
Matt Holliday led off the ninth with his fifth walk of the game — and the Yankees’ ninth of 11 — and pinch runner Jacoby Ellsbury stole second. After Chris Carter walked on five pitches, Castro banged an 0-and-2 pitch up the middle for a single that made it 4-3.
“Hell of an at-bat by him,” said Judge, who followed a walk to Chase Headley with an RBI groundout to make it 5-3.
Austin Romine’s long sacrifice fly to rightfield and second baseman Jonathan Schoop’s throwing error on a relay brought in two runs on the play for a 7-3 lead.
Aroldis Chapman pitched a scoreless ninth, striking out Schoop and J.J. Hardy with 100-mph fastballs.
Orioles lefty Wade Miley had almost no command but held the Yankees hitless for 4 2⁄3 innings and pitched five shutout innings despite walking seven batters.
The Yankees finally started to hit in the sixth against Tyler Wilson. Judge started the rally with a two-out single, lasering one off the base of the wall in left. Romine singled and Torreyes roped a two-run triple to right-center to make it 3-2. The 5-7, 150-pound Torreyes is the club’s RBI leader with seven.
“Yeah, that’s surprising,” Torreyes said through his translator. “Castro actually told me, ‘Hey, you’re the RBI leader.’ So yeah, we cracked a couple of jokes about that. It’s fun.”
That’s a word that wasn’t heard often around the Yankees during a trying opening week.
“I said the other day, we were a couple hits away, a couple pitches away from having a much different record,” Girardi said. “We didn’t take advantage of some free passes early on, but our guys kept at it. These guys showed a lot today.”