The visitor’s dugout of Yankee Stadium wasn’t a pleasant place to be on Sunday afternoon as, one by one, Orioles hitters walked back flustered and flummoxed after swinging through air against the offerings of New York Yankees right-hander Michael Pineda.
There might not have been a worse way for the Orioles to end their weeklong road trip to New York City.
They finished their six games in Gotham with a 6-2 loss at Yankee Stadium. They didn’t just lose, however — they were dominated by the 6-foot-7 Pineda, who struck out 16 batters in seven innings, setting a new record for the most strikeouts by an opposing pitcher in a nine-inning game in Orioles history.
“Oh yeah, of course you're frustrated,” said Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy, who scored the only run off Pineda with a second-inning solo homer and was the only Orioles starter who didn’t strike out. “Obviously, we're losing, striking out a lot. ... We've got to do better.”
The Orioles (13-16) return to Baltimore having lost five of six games here, including three of four against the Yankees. They also dropped both games of a short, interleague series against the Mets at Citi Field.
Sunday’s loss sealed the Orioles’ first series loss to the Yankees since Sept. 9-12, 2013. They had been unbeaten in seven straight series against the Yankees.
“It’s a little frustrating because we know we’re a good ball club and, unfortunately, we’re in a tough patch,” said Orioles right-hander Bud Norris, who battled through a stomach virus that made him questionable for Sunday’s start.
Norris (1-4) lasted just 31/3 innings, his third outing in six this season in which he’s failed to get out of the fourth inning, and allowed four runs on six hits. Norris fell victim to a four-run fourth inning in which the Orioles had a pair of outfield miscues.
Norris was coming off back-to-back quality starts and appeared to be coming out of an early-season funk that dated back to spring training. Showalter could tell that Norris wasn’t feeling 100 percent. He was the latest to catch a bug that forced infielder-outfielder Steve Pearce out of the lineup last week.
“Not an excuse, but I definitely didn’t feel the best out there,” said Norris, who has a 9.88 ERA this season. “I’ve been battling the stomach thing. I really wanted to go out there and give everything I had. Unfortunately, we came up on the short end today.
“I’ve never really pitched like that before, feeling that bad, but you’re just trying to get one out at a time and believe me, I was just one pitch away,” Norris added. “I thought my stuff was pretty good. … But I’m trying to help the team, not hurt the team, any way I can. It’s a little frustrating.”
Orioles pitchers combined to walk eight Yankees batters — including four by Rule 5 pick Jason Garcia in 21/3 innings of relief — and hit two more, which disappointed Showalter more than anything.
The Orioles lineup was no match for Pineda. At one point in the game, he struck out eight of nine hitters, mixing a low 90s fastball with a devastating slider that the Orioles bats swung through eight times for strikeouts.
“He was nasty,” Hardy said. “His ball's cutting all over the place. He comes out of the same slot. Slider looks like the cutter, changeup looks like the cutter. Just tough to pick up. … He's got good stuff, but he was commanding all three pitches. It's deceptive. He's a giant out there, so he looks like he's even closer than he really is. He was tough today.”
Pineda (5-0), is 3-0 with a 3.45 ERA in six career starts against the Orioles and has 54 strikeouts and three walks over 461/3 innings this season.
His 16 strikeouts tied the second-most by a Yankees pitcher in a nine-inning game, trailing only Ron Guidry's 18-strikeout effort on June 17, 1978, against the California Angels. David Cone and David Wells also recorded 16-strikeout games, both in 1997.
The 18 total strikeouts by Yankees pitchers — reliever Dellin Betances struck out two batters — set a new Orioles club record for the most by an opposing team in a single game.
Carlos Beltran opened a four-run fourth inning with a solo homer to right off Norris that came on a full-count pitch.
Norris allowed the next four New York batters to reach, including Didi Gregorius’ RBI single and a two-run double to left by Jacoby Ellsbury.
On Gregorius’ hit, Chase Headley has held at third, but Delmon Young’s throw missed the cutoff man, allowing Headley to trot home easily.
Then, Alejandro De Aza broke late on Ellsbury’s line drive to right and the ball sailed over him and to the wall, chasing Norris from the game.
The Orioles appeared frustrated by home plate umpire Mark Carlson’s strike zone. Just four of Pineda’s 16 strikeouts were called, but second baseman Ryan Flaherty dropped the bat from his shoulder after taking a called strike three on a backdoor slider in the fifth. Third baseman Manny Machado was then called out looking on a slider for the second time and emphatically slammed his bat and helmet.
“You never want to take the game out of your hands and leave it in someone else’s hands but I thought there were a couple calls that could have gone my way, a couple of plays that could have gone my way,” Norris said. “The ball’s just not bouncing our way right now and it’s frustrating, but this team has a lot of grit and a lot of grind. We’ve got to get back to it.
“We’re excited to go home. I can tell you that. We haven’t been home for a while and to be back in Baltimore with our fan base, that’s going to be huge for us.”