Gardner, Nix shine in Yankees' 5-1 loss to Orioles
Much like in Sunday’s loss to the Blue Jays, the Yankees had a great opportunity to jump on top in the first inning when Gardner and Nix led off with back-to-back singles off Orioles starter Brian Matusz, but Matusz got Matt Diaz to bounce into a 5-4-3 double play before striking out Juan Rivera to end the inning and the threat.
Baltimore then got themselves on the board off Yankees starter Vidal Nuno right away, with doubles by Brian Roberts and Adam Jones in the bottom of the frame giving the O’s a 1-0 lead. Nick Markakis’ two-out RBI single in the third off Bryan Mitchell scored Roberts to push the lead to 2-0, and pinch-hitter Nate McLouth followed an inning later with a two-out, two-run double off Corey Black to double the advantage.
In the seventh, Baltimore got their final run – the only one in the game scored with less than two outs – when Russ Canzler hit an RBI single off Ryan Pope. The Bombers finally pushed a run across with two outs in the ninth when shortstop Walter Ibarra rapped an RBI single to score third baseman Corban Joseph, but O’s righty Adam Russell quickly struck out first baseman Gregory Bird looking to end the game.
Offensively, Ibarra’s RBI single was one of just three hits by Yankees not named Gardner or Nix, the others being starting shortstop Gil Velazquez’s single in the third and Bird's single in the seventh; meanwhile, for the Orioles, Roberts and Markakis were each 2-for-3, and ex-Yankees Canzler and Chris Dickerson also each recorded one of Baltimore’s nine hits.
Among Yankees pitchers, Nuno put in the most impressive performance, allowing just those two doubles and striking out five in his two innings – a total that included striking out the side in the second after J.J. Hardy had reached on an error – and righties Shane Greene and Kelvin Perez and lefty Josh Spence all pitched scoreless innings.
One bonus Yankees fans did get late in the game, however, was a potential showcase of the outfield of the future, as top prospects Slade Heathcott (center field), Tyler Austin (right), and Ramon Flores (left) patrolled the green in Ed Smith Stadium for the final three defensive innings, with Zoilo Almonte also taking an at-bat as the designated hitter.
With the loss, the Yankees drop to 1-2 in Grapefruit League play. They will take on the Philadelphia Phillies in Clearwater, Fla., at 1 p.m. Tuesday, and then return home to Tampa for a 1 p.m. Wednesday rematch against the Orioles on YES.
Follow Lou DiPietro on Twitter: @LouDiPietroYES