By definition, it was the New York Yankees who were in pinstripes at Camden Yards for the Orioles’ 3-2 win in 10 innings Friday night.
Their fans, as always, were out in abundance, making up at least half of the sellout crowd. But these weren't the dominating, punch-you-in-the-gut Bronx Bombers of old.
This Yankees club was making its 2014 debut in the city with no Mariano Rivera, no CC Sabathia and no Alex Rodriguez. Its centerpiece for so many seasons, shortstop Derek Jeter, is 40 and retiring at the end of this year.
The real difference, though, was in the outcome of Friday night's nail-biter: the first-place Orioles' fifth victory in seven tries against the third-place Yankees this season.
“It's big. We've got to win series. Divisional series, home [series] are very crucial. We know that,” said Orioles catcher Nick Hundley, whose one-out single in the bottom of the 10th gave the Orioles their seventh walk-off win in 2014. “We know that [the Yankees] are a very talented team with good arms, a very solid veteran lineup. So we are going to have to play well to beat them. Fortunately, we did.”
Manny Machado led off the 10th with a double into the right-field corner against Yankees reliever Adam Warren (1-5) and scored two batters later when Hundley singled to center. The Orioles are now 9-3 in 12 extra-inning games this year and have outscored opponents 45-26 from the ninth inning on.
“I think it really speaks to the depth of our bullpen, the quality of our bullpen,” Hundley said. “Then, with the offense that we have and the staunch bullpen, it kind of lends itself to be successful, either late in the game or extra innings.”
After starter Miguel Gonzalez threw eight innings of two-run ball, Zach Britton and T.J. McFarland (3-2) combined for two scoreless innings to keep the game knotted at 2.
“Usually, it's pitching and the bullpen doing well. Zach had a big inning for us. Mac very quietly has become a real contributor for us,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said, explaining his team's late-inning success. “So we've got a lot of guys who are shouldering the load, and we're able to pass it around and not tax anybody."
The Orioles (51-41) are a season-high 10 games over .500 and five games ahead of the Yankees (46-46) in the American League East.
In previous years, certainly in the 2000s, the Orioles would have lost a game like Friday's, the sides exchanging blows until the Yankees seized the momentum.
But not this year — not so far, anyway. If the Orioles win at least five of their remaining 12 games against the Yankees, they will have won a season series against New York for the first time since 1997.
Another intriguing subplot entering Friday night had been the return to Camden Yards of Yankees second baseman Brian Roberts, who spent his first 13 seasons in the majors with the Orioles.
When he came to the plate in the second inning, there was little reaction from the announced 45,389, the sixth sellout this season. There were some boos and some polite applause for Roberts, but nothing distinctive.
“I heard a little bit as I went up to hit,” Roberts said. “I'm sure there are some people that like me and some people that don't. I knew that coming in.”
Roberts, however, made that first moment back in Baltimore a memorable one.
On the first pitch he ever saw as an opposing hitter at Camden Yards, Roberts deposited Gonzalez's 92-mph fastball onto the flag court beyond the right-field wall. It was his sixth home run of the season and first against the Orioles. Heading into Friday, Roberts was 5-for-16 (.313) in five starts against his old team, all at Yankee Stadium this year.
“Home runs always feel good, no matter where you are. It's not like I want to hit a homer off of Miguel Gonzalez any more than I want to hit one off anybody else,” Roberts said. “Obviously, I've got a lot of good buddies over there. I spent a lot of time with them. It was just fun to be back here. I love this place. It was a great atmosphere. I wish we had gotten the win more than anything.”
The Yankees' first two runs of the game were solo home runs against Gonzalez, who has served up 15 in 15 starts. Yankees designated hitter Kelly Johnson made it 2-0 in the third with his sixth home run of the season.
Gonzalez was in trouble again in the fourth, but picked up two flyouts with runners on second and third to end the inning. He then retired 14 of his final 15 batters to finish the game.
“The fourth inning was big: second and third with one out,” Gonzalez said. “That was a huge inning right there."
The only base runner he allowed after the fourth was Johnson, whom he hit in the back with a fastball with two outs in the seventh. That was the third of four batters that were plunked Friday; Orioles designated hitter Steve Pearce was hit twice.
Pearce drew the ire of Yankees manager Joe Girardi in their last game, on June 22 in the Bronx, when he slid wide at third base — and at Johnson, who was trying to turn a double play. Showalter was asked whether he thought that bad blood spilled over into Friday's game, and he quickly dismissed the line of questioning. “What else?” he asked at his postgame news conference.
Other than the two homers and Johnson's plunking, Gonzalez's control was pinpoint. He didn't walk a batter and struck out five while allowing six hits. It was the second straight game in which the right-hander pitched eight full innings — and he didn't receive a decision in either. He had gone 31 starts between consecutive eight-inning outings before this week.
“It's fun to be out there and throw strikes, not walking anyone,” Gonzalez said. “I thought that was important.”
The Orioles at least made sure Gonzalez wouldn't get a loss in the fourth, when Yankees starter Hiroki Kuroda temporarily unraveled. The 39-year-old right-hander, who allowed just one single in his first three innings, started the fourth by hitting Pearce. Adam Jones followed with a high chopper up the middle that bounced off Jeter's glove and caromed into the outfield. Pearce moved to third on the play and then scored on a wild pitch by Kuroda.
With Jones at second, Kuroda threw another wild pitch, allowing Jones to get to third base. He scored on a sacrifice fly by Chris Davis to tie the game at 2. Kuroda then plunked J.J. Hardy, his second hit batter of the inning, before getting a groundout to escape the fourth.
Kuroda lasted seven innings, allowing just three hits and two runs to go along with the three wild pitches and two hit batters. In his previous 18 starts this season, Kuroda had hit only two batters and thrown only four wild pitches.
The Orioles had to wait until the 10th before picking up their ninth win in their past 11 games.
“Obviously, we're winning and we're taking notice of that. It's a big win tonight, but we've still got two games with them,” McFarland said. “It's one of those things where you enjoy the win, but you still have to come out and win tomorrow … and come back the next day and win again.”Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun