The feel-good start to this Orioles’ season may have officially come to an end Wednesday, with one swing that catapulted the New York Yankees to a three-game sweep and pushed the Orioles back to .500.
A see-saw contest was put out of reach in the top of the 10th when Yankees right-fielder and certifiable Oriole killer Nick Swisher deposited a Kevin Gregg cutter deep into the right-field seats to give New York an eventual 6-4 win.
"The ball kind of slipped out of my hand," Gregg said. "I left it up there, and he hit it."
It was Swisher’s 24th homer and 70th RBI against the Orioles, his highest totals against any big-league club, and it came after he had been hitless in four at-bats.
Yankees closer Mariano Rivera pitched a scoreless ninth for his second save of the season, unceremoniously extinguishing what began as a potentially hopeful beginning for the Orioles.
The club started 2012 with its own three-game triumph over the struggling Minnesota Twins, thanks to a trio of great starting pitching performances.
They got a solid one Wednesday from de facto ace Jake Arrieta, but it wasn’t enough.
"Getting swept is tough, but we are going to compete with those guys all year as well as the other teams in our division," Arrieta said. "The last two games were a pretty good example of that. I think it is just a matter of making one more pitch or getting one more guy on base. There's a lot of variables there, but we are going to find ways to get it done. It's just a matter of not letting this get to us too much."
There were plenty of chances for both sides to win – none more teed up than in the bottom of the ninth, when with two outs and two on the Yankees chose to intentionally walk Nick Markakis to face Adam Jones.
New York reliever Rafael Soriano (1-0) threw one ball before humming three straight strikes past a hacking Jones, the last a 92-mph fastball.
"I'm still thinking about it now," Jones said after the game. "Texting my brother about it. It's over-swinging. I need to stay shorter. Somebody told me stop trying to hit the ball to San Diego. Just put it in play. That's true."
The Yankees got to Gregg in his second inning, something the former closer and fan scapegoat is unaccustomed to doing. Gregg (0-1) pitched a perfect ninth but allowed a bloop double by Mark Teixeira before Swisher hit the two-out blast in the 10th.
In front of a damp, and Yankee-heavy announced crowd of 22,919, the hope of a fast start flickered and faded.
"I think it's frustrating for everybody anytime you lose, whether it's in regulation or extra innings," Gregg said. "There were some things that didn't go our way, but that's baseball. Not everything is going to go your way."
Following a 20-minute, pre-game rain delay, Arrieta started out shaky, allowing a double to Derek Jeter and Curtis Granderson’s first homer of the season in a span of six pitches to open the contest.
After that, he looked like the same pitcher who threw seven scoreless innings in an Opening Day win. Using all of his pitches effectively, including a 95-mph fastball, Arrieta retired 12 of the next 13 batters before running into trouble in the fifth.
He loaded the bases with no outs on a walk, hit batter and a bloop single, but managed to squeak out of trouble, allowing just one run on a Jeter groundout. It allowed the Yankees to go up 3-2.
The Orioles took the lead back in the bottom of the fifth on a two-run double by Mark Reynolds, who was Tuesday’s goat when he made a key error that allowed the Yankees back into a game they eventually won in 12 innings.
When Reynolds reached second, after giving the Orioles a 4-3 lead, he clapped his hands furiously, a little redemption as well as the first RBIs of the season for the third baseman.
The lead, again, was short-lived. With two outs and a runner on first in the seventh, Orioles manager Buck Showalter lifted Arrieta after his 109th pitch.
He brought in former Yankee Luis Ayala to face Jeter, who walked. Granderson followed with a run-scoring single, his third RBI, to tie the game at 4-4.
It took away a potential win and quality start for Arrieta, who was charged with four earned runs on five hits and a walk in 6 2/3 innings.
He did out-pitch his more heralded counterpart, however.
The Orioles continually had Yankees’ starter CC Sabathia on the ropes, but couldn’t knock out the slimmed-down but still massive left-hander. He was removed heading into the bottom of the seventh, once he was off the hook for the loss.
Sabathia entered the night having won his last seven starts at Camden Yards, the longest such streak in the stadium’s history. He was 16-2 with a 2.74 ERA in his career against the Orioles and is only loss in Baltimore was in 2009 in his first start as a Yankee.
Sabathia started off strong as usual here, striking out three of the first four batters he faced. But he ended up laboring mightily in the second inning, throwing 38 pitches and allowing two runs on a single by Robert Andino. It doubled Andino’s RBIs for the season, tying him with Markakis with the team lead at 4.
Sabathia was touched for eight hits, two walks and four earned runs in six innings, his second straight poor outing to start the year (he allowed five earned runs in six innings against Tampa Bay last week). Sabathia did strike out eight batters, but threw a whopping 112 pitches in six innings.
The Orioles will get their first day off of the young season Thursday before leaving for a 10-game, three-city, two-country, three-time-zone road trip to Toronto, Chicago and Los Angeles.
The Orioles knew the season wouldn’t get any easier, not in the American League East, not ever. But it got considerably harder when the Twins left and the Yankees came to town.
"Different competition," Jones said. "I mean, we played three good games [against the Yankees]. Just didn't come out on top. We won't hang our heads; it's the sixth game of the year. There are some things we've still got to work on. Take a day off [today], go up to Toronto and take out our frustration on their pitching staff."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun