Yankees drop rubber game to Orioles, 8-3
The Yankees came into their three-game set with the Orioles fresh off a 2-4 road trip and a series loss at home to the lowly Blue Jays. Before Friday's game, the Yankees were still three games up in the division. Just two days later, the Orioles left town having cut that division lead by one. Mark Reynolds is a key reason why.
“Keep doubting,” Reynolds said after Friday night's win. “I don't care. We keep coming in and doing our jobs and doing the little things that win baseball games.”
No one doubts the Orioles first baseman or his teammates anymore. The Orioles took care of business in the Bronx and have set themselves up for a huge four-game set in Camden Yards next weekend, ready to do something they haven't done in a long time: Take over first place in the American League East this late in the season.
Reynolds, who has struggled all season, averaged 38 home runs per season from 2008-2011, but came into New York with just 10 home runs on the season. He leaves New York with 14. In the Orioles’ two victories in the series -- Friday night and Sunday afternoon -- Reynolds destroyed Yankees pitching with two multi-homer games.
“Mark, through thick and thin, has been a good teammate,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said after the game. “He's worked hard. When he's struggled offensively he's gone out there to see how good he can be defensively.”
Both home runs were off Yankees starter Phil Hughes, who had been the Yanks’ best starter at home this season. Hughes went five-plus innings, allowing eight hits and five earned runs. He started to show signs of fatigue in the top of the fifth, when he gave up three hits and a leadoff home run to Reynolds, but came out of the inning still leading 2-1.
Joe Girardi opted to stay with Hughes in the top of the sixth. After a leadoff walk to Nate McLouth and an Adam Jones single, Reynolds -- who tagged Hughes in the previous inning -- stepped into the box again. Girardi stayed with his starter, but the result was the same. With one swing of the bat, Reynolds’ second blast gave the Orioles a 5-3 lead they did not relinquish.
“That was my decision to leave him in there,” Joe Girardi said about his decision to keep Hughes in the game. “He'd struck him out and given up a home run to him. Reynolds is a guy that's going to strike out his share. There are different things you can do to him. He hung a breaking ball. My other choice is to bring Eppley in there and then to bring in Boone for the left-hander and then I've got to bring in another right-hander. I felt better leaving Hughes against Reynolds than what I would have done after Boone. If it's one out it's a different story, but there's no outs.”
The final score on this game could have been even more lopsided if not for the terrific play of September call-up and Sunday's center fielder Chris Dickerson who made two spectacular defensive plays and hit a two-run home run.
Dickerson, clearly the Yankees’ best player on the day, was pinch-hit for in the bottom of the seventh inning after a leadoff single by Ichiro. Girardi brought in the right-handed Andruw Jones to face the left-handed Randy Wolf. Jones, who has struggled of late, flew out for the first out of the inning.
“Played well, extremely well,” Girardi said of Dickerson. “He was a big part of our offense. Made some really good defensive plays as well. A nice day.” Girardi then added of his decision to take him out in favor of Jones in that situation by saying, “You're thinking about a righty against a lefty hitting a two-run homer.”
“I thought he called me over because I thought we were going to bunt,” Dickerson said of being pinch-hit for. “He was like, ‘you're out,’ and I said OK. But you know your reaction is what it is. I trust in Joe's judgment, it just didn't happen to work out. I really didn't think much of it.”
Still down two in the seventh inning, Derek Jeter came up with one out and two on, but grounded into the inning ending 6-6-3 double play to kill the rally -- and to kill what turned out to be the Yankees’ last offensive opportunity. The Orioles bullpen shut down the Yankees the rest of the way. The Yankees bullpen, specifically Derek Lowe and Joba Chamberlain, did not have a good outing, killing any chance of a Yankees comeback.
“You need them to get big outs. That's the bottom line,” Girardi said of the bullpen. “They're never going to be perfect, but you need them to get big outs. If you put them in situations to try to be successful, sometimes it doesn't work.”
The Yankees were 10 games up in the American League East after their win on July 18. Since that time, the team has gone 19-23 and lost eight games in the standings. They may still have the lead, but injuries, inconsistent pitching from the starters and relievers and an anemic offense have plagued the Yankees during this collapse.
Joe Girardi told the media after the game that Alex Rodriguez will most likely be in the lineup on Monday when the Yankees take on the Rays in Tampa.