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Time for the Yankees to fight back

Despite Thursday’s devastating defeat, Yanks have share of first place
09/07/2012 2:06 PM ET
By Joe Auriemma

Matt Wieters, Adam Jones and the Orioles hit six home runs off Yankees pitching on Thursday.(AP)
The top of the eighth inning of Thursday night's game is one that the Yankees will have to keep as a reminder that the offense has the capability of coming back in big spots.

The bottom half of that inning is a different story altogether. That is one where the team needs to have a short memory and move on.

The phrase everyone has lived by all summer, the Orioles are not going away, is literally not going to go away. This team is in it to the end. On one hand the O's showed their inexperience in these spots by allowing the Yankees to come back from what looked like an insurmountable deficit. On the other hand, the Orioles showed that they are in it to win it as they literally blasted their way to a victory that once again knotted up American League East.

The good news for the Yankees is that their offense looked terrific in the eighth and may have turned a huge corner. Alex Rodriguez was dead red on a first pitch curveball that got the rally going. Then something happened that we haven't seen from this Yankees offense in a while; they made the pitchers' work. Randy Wolf and Pedro Strop were on the ropes as Yankee hitter after Yankee hitter came up to the plate and showed discipline.

This is a team that has swung at a lot of bad balls lately, not showing the Yankees patented patience, but batter after batter took walks with Curtis Granderson mixing in an RBI single. By the time Ichiro got to the plate, Strop, who has been very reliable this season other than his last two appearances against the Yankees, was a spent man. Ichiro Suzuki completed the unlikely five-run comeback with his biggest hit to date with the Yankees, a two-run single that tied the score at six. Things were looking up for a team that was on the ropes all night.

Unfortunately, the good vibes would not last long, as the Yankees did something that they've done a lot of this season; they gave the lead right back to the Orioles in the bottom half of the inning. Just when the Yankees thought they had something to build off of, and just when they silenced the raucous crowd in Camden Yards, the bullpen came up small in a big spot.

Adam Jones led off the bottom half of the eighth against David Robertson, and took a flat cutter and unloaded it over the left field wall. And just like that, all of the work the Yankees had put in to coming back in the game was over with one swing.

“I was trying to make a good pitch, go in on him, up a little bit and really tried to drive the ball in there and I just didn't make the pitch,” Robertson said. “It was a ball over the plate. He's a good hitter and did what he was supposed to do and put a good swing right into the seats.”

The damage was far from over at this point. Matt Wieters, after hitting a home run in the first inning, raised his season average against the Yankees to .404 with a single on another cutter with little to no movement. Then the ultimate Yankees killer, Mark Reynolds, stepped into the box and unloaded on a cutter with no cut. Reynolds’ home run was his second of the game and of his 18 career multi-home run games in his career; three have come in the last week against the Yankees.

If it wasn't bad enough, Robertson, who exited not recording one out, gave way to Boone Logan. Logan threw one pitch and Chris Davis deposited that one pitch out of the ballpark. Just like that, the Yankees were down 10-6 and all of the good vibes built up in the top half of the inning went out the window.

“The team fought really hard the whole game,” Robertson told the media after the game. “We finally scratched something together in the eighth and put five runs up. I'm supposed be able to come in there and hold the lead and I didn't do it.”

The Orioles may have the lopsided run differential that everyone is talking about, but the only differential that mattered on Thursday night was the one in the eighth inning, when they immediately answered the bell and declared to the baseball world that they are here to stay.

“Up until the eighth they (the bullpen) were pretty good,” said manager Joe Girardi. “They had held them in check for awhile when (starter David) Phelps struggled the first inning and then we were able to come back, but it didn't happen tonight.”

There is a lot of baseball left to be played. However, it is tough for the Yankees to just put that one behind them when their current weaknesses were on display for all to see on a Thursday night in Baltimore.

“When you're fighting a team for first place, a loss is a loss,” Girardi replied when asked if the team can bounce back from this disappointing loss. “We swung the bats extremely well, we didn't pitch well tonight. It's one game. You move on. They're going to have their bad days too.”

It is one game, but it's also an opportunity. It's an opportunity to show themselves and the rest of baseball what they are made of. It is the heart of a champion that is able to bounce back and respond. We'll see how these Yankees can answer that call on Friday night.

Follow Joe Auriemma on Twitter: @JoeAuriemmaYES

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