NEW YORK — The Orioles made nothing easy for themselves for three days in the Bronx this weekend, and their mettle was tested again as another ninth-inning lead dissipated in the chilly New York air Sunday.
They had already been battered in the first two games of the series. Wounded by allowing a total of 26 runs in the first two games of the series — a pair of humbling losses that knocked the Orioles out of first place for the first time this season — they needed a win Sunday to avoid being swept out of Yankee Stadium.
And Sunday's game started to follow a familiar script, as the Orioles were one out away from victory but blew a multirun ninth-inning lead for the second time in three games here in New York, this time amid controversy.
In a game that included its share of strange moments, the Orioles ultimately escaped Gotham with a 7-4 win over the Yankees in 11 innings, salvaging the series finale, but not before New York's tying runs came in to score after a questionable balk call; manager Buck Showalter was ejected; the Yankee Stadium lights turned on, then off, then on again; and a Yankee pitched in the ninth, played first base in the 10th and pitched again in the 11th.
"Our guys refused to lose," Showalter said of his team, which at 15-8 is off to its best start after 23 games since 2005. "They let us hang around a little bit there early."
The Orioles overcame that adversity to score three runs in the 11th to win — Mark Trumbo drove in the go-ahead run after the Yankees walked Manny Machado intentionally to face him and scored two more in the inning — and were able to head to Boston for another early-season American League East road test with some positive vibes.
"It would have been tough having two [ninth-inning] leads and leaving with no wins," reliever Darren O'Day said. "So the guys bailed out the bullpen tonight. They did a great job. … It was a good win."
O'Day was in the middle of the biggest play of the night, when he was called for a balk with two outs in the ninth inning with the Orioles up 4-2.
With runners on first and second, O'Day made a pickoff move to second base to catch Starling Castro off the bag. Castro was caught but O'Day made a wild throw into center field as Castro dived back to the base. Neither runner advanced on the play, but each received a base from home plate umpire Stu Scheurwater to put them into scoring position.
Showalter jumped out of the dugout to argue and was quickly ejected by Scheurwater.
"There wasn't a lot of give and take," Showalter said. "Same thing he's been doing for eight or nine years. One out of four saw something that wasn't there. I think we call it overofficiating in basketball. He had a pretty good game going until that."
Two batters later, both runs scored on Didi Gregorius' two-run single off Donnie Hart.
O'Day was told by Scheurwater, a call-up umpire, that he didn't make the proper step toward second base.
"I've been doing the same move my whole career and nobody's ever called it a balk, so it's a bit surprising that he could see that from there," O'Day said. "It would have been interesting if I had made a good throw and picked him off because that would have been the game. … I guess I'll continue to do it. I don't know, but yeah it was a good opportunity there to steal an out and win the game. It didn't work out."
The Orioles blew a ninth-inning lead Friday night, too, when right-hander Brad Brach couldn't preserve a three-run advantage.
After Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman shut down the Orioles in the top of the 10th in Sunday's twilight, the Yankee Stadium lights turned on before the bottom half of the inning, but Orioles interim manager John Russell got them turned off because, according to major league rules, stadium lights can't be turned on in the middle of an inning.
With the bullpen bare, Logan Verrett, freshly landed from Triple-A Norfolk, entered the game in the 10th. After allowing a leadoff bloop single down the right-field line, Verrett fielded Brett Gardner's bunt and threw to second base, where he had no chance to get the lead runner.
The Orioles needed an outstanding play — J.J. Hardy's charging scoop of Castro's grounder and throw to catcher Castillo to nab the potential winning run at the plate — and Verrett's strikeout of Aaron Judge to get out of the 10th.
Hardy credited Castillo, who had to take a low throw and maintain possession with Austin Romine bearing down on the plate.
"It's instinct," Castillo said. "I tried to play it [like I would at] first base, but as soon as I see the throw, and I got to make sure that I hold the ball, and that's what I did, so the throw turned into the line, and I just went down there and grabbed the ball and tried to get one out."
Yankees right-hander Bryan Mitchell, who pitched the ninth, then moved to first base in the 10th, returned to the mound in the 11th. Joey Rickard started the rally with a one-out single, then stole second base, and the Yankees walked Machado intentionally to face Trumbo, who singled up the middle to drive in Rickard with the eventual winning run.
“Some people thrive on that and take it personally and some just say, ‘Hey, it’s part of the game,’ ” Showalter said of Trumbo making the Yankees pay for the intentional walk. “When I walk somebody, it doesn’t mean I don’t think the next guy’s not a big league hitter. You’re just picking your poison there.”