Despite having a 9-1 lead in the 6th inning, the Orioles lost to the Yankees 11-14 in 10 innings. (Ulysses Muñoz / Baltimore Sun)
The Orioles' bats came alive at Yankee Stadium on Friday night, and thanks to resurgent nights from slumping sluggers Manny Machado and Mark Trumbo, they took a seemingly comfortable seven-run lead into the seventh-inning stretch.
The usually dependable Orioles bullpen couldn't hold that cushion, leaking in the later innings in a game that quickly went from rout to redux as the Yankees came back for a 14-11 win in 10 innings that was gut-wrenching to say the least.
The Orioles also had a 9-1 lead in the middle of the sixth inning, but as the Yankees started pecking into that lead, it foreshadowed a game that was far from over.
Orioles reliever Brad Brach – who had been just about perfect as the team's interim closer with Zach Britton on the disabled list – couldn't hold a three-inning lead in the ninth. A two-run homer by Starlin Castro tied the game at 11 and woke up Yankees fans who were quiet for most of the night.
"I think I was kind of rushing out there a little bit," Brach said. "I think I kind of got away from my game plan, the scouting reports that I had kind of come up with myself. Just a couple of pitches I wish I could take back. Nothing different; just didn't execute."
The Orioles had little choice in the 10th but to turn to left-hander Jayson Aquino – who by no means expected to be in the game in extra innings – and he was clearly unsettled, walking the first two batters of the frame before serving up a game-winning three-run homer to Matt Holliday.
"Just command," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "Was just missing down, trying not to make a mistake. He's a young pitcher."
As Orioles players slowly walked off the field as Holliday rounded the bases, they faced the task of regrouping quickly for a day game about 14 hours later with a bullpen that was beaten and decimated.
Jacoby Ellsbury hit a grand slam off lefty long man Vidal Nuno, forcing the Orioles' late-inning relievers into a game in which they should have only been spectators.
Nuno entered the game after starter Kevin Gausman allowed a leadoff single to open the seventh with the Orioles up 11-4. Nuno retired Brett Gardner on a flyout to center, but then yielded a Chase Headley double down the left-field line and walked Holliday to load the bases.
Ellsbury then took a 2-1 pitch from Nuno into the right-field stands for a grand slam to make it 11-8. One of those runs was charged to Gausman.
Machado and Trumbo break out
In a game that included eight homers, Machado and Trumbo each barreled up a ball with authoritative swings that seemingly unleashed their pent-up frustrations of the opening month, sending souvenirs into the Yankee Stadium bleachers.
Machado, who entered the night hitting just .186 (11-for-59) over his previous 16 games, had hits in each of his first three at-bats. That included a monster solo home run to center field in the fifth inning off Yankees starter CC Sabathia that sailed over Monument Park by about 80 feet, hitting the bottom of the center-field concourse.
In the following inning, Trumbo parked a Bryan Mitchell pitch about 10 rows beyond the Orioles bullpen in left field for his fourth career grand slam.
"It's kinda like, you see a guy with a great track record that we think highly of," Showalter said. "[Trumbo] and Manny had a big night. And a guy who has been rock solid for us had an off night with Brad. And that's just part of it. You try to keep the ebb and flow and realize that reality. That's a good team over there and we're a good team."
Machado's solo homer was estimated to have traveled 470 feet, which in the longest this season, according to Statcast. He drove in three runs on the night, including a two-run double into the right-center-field gap in the third.
Trumbo, the reigning major league home run king who was hitless in his 25 at-bats before a fifth-inning single ended that streak, hit his first homer in 20 games. His only previous homer this season came on Opening Day. Friday's blast that went an estimated 459 feet.
"Felt good to contribute," Trumbo said. "Wasn't enough, but hopefully that can be a nice way to get things moving in a better direction. … I was seeing the ball pretty well. Results weren't there, but anytime I'm getting a good look at it and taking some close pitches that's a good sign."
Catcher Welington Castillo also hit a two-run shot in the fourth for the Orioles (14-7), his first of the season.
After going through a span in which they scored three or fewer runs in six of nine games, the Orioles offense took control early of Friday's game, which featured the top two teams in the American League East standings.
Bullpen can't back it up
It didn't appear that Brach would get a save opportunity in the middle of the sixth when the Orioles were up 9-1.
"Obviously at 9-1 you're not thinking you are, but it's the AL East, so any team is a couple dinks and a blast away from being a few runs back into it," Brach said. "And even then it wasn't in the back of my mind that I wasn't going to get in. I'm always ready whenever Buck makes the phone call."
But Gausman's struggles and Nuno's implosion forced the Orioles' late-inning arms to be used, with Mychal Givens, Darren O'Day and Brach all having to pitch.
Givens (two-thirds of an inning) and O'Day (one inning) both provided scoreless outings, but Brach – who hadn't allowed a run in 12 relief innings this seasons – allowed three runs in the ninth.
Brach issued a leadoff walk to Headley, then a hard-hit single off the center field wall by Holliday to put runners at the corners. After Ellsbury's chopper up the middle led to a force out at second and scored a run, Castro took a 95 mph first-pitch fastball into the left-field stands.
"The leadoff walk I felt was the bad thing," Brach said. "I know I gave up the home run later, but with a three-run lead I've got to attack the hitter. I can't be messing around like I did. You just don't want to lose those games."
Gausman can't build on strong start
Despite a rocky start to the season, Gausman brought an impressive track record against the Yankees to the Bronx – 6-3, 2.24 ERA in 18 career appearances. He held the Yankees two just two hits over four scoreless innings before falling victim during Friday night's power display.
Three of the five runs Gausman allowed came on a pair of homers by Herculean rookie Aaron Judge, who hit a solo homer in the fifth and then blasted a two-run shot in the sixth.
"I felt really good," Gausman said. "I was cruising through five. I give up the solo home run to Judge, but those things are going to happen. Bad pitch, kind of came back to the middle of the plate. I'm more [angry] about the fact that I gave up three in the sixth. Kind of let them get off the hook, let them back in the ballgame. Darren and Brad shouldn't even be getting in the game, especially when we're up 9-1. I've got to be able to kind of put my foot on their throat right there."
Gausman lasted one batter into the seventh inning, allowing five runs on eight hits through six-plus innings. His ERA remained 7.50.
Rickard getting back in the act
Outfielder Joey Rickard made his impact felt immediately in his first game back off the disabled list, reaching safely three times.
Rickard showed his speed with a pair of infield singles, including one on a bunt he dropped down the first base line, and drew a walk.
Rickard was hitless in six at-bats before going on the DL.