The Orioles had to feel pretty good about their chances in the opener of a three-game series against the rival New York Yankees on Monday afternoon at Camden Yards.
Especially after the first three innings.
Dylan Bundy, staked to an early three-run lead, sailed through the first three innings without giving up a hit, but he spun out of control after that and the Yankees stormed back to score a 7-4 victory before an announced 37,622.
The Yankees, fighting to hold their place as the first American League wild-card team, scored three times in the fourth and twice in the fifth before manager Buck Showalter decided that his young pitcher had suffered enough.
"Just command got away from him,'' Showalter said. "He wasn't the only one. What did we walk, nine? Ten counting the intentional. But just one of those days. First couple innings were OK. Just couldn't find his command."
Bundy threw 98 pitches in just four-plus innings, which was quite in contrast to his one-hit shutout in his previous start.
"I thought the first couple innings I was getting away with stuff and missing my spots and they were hitting the ball right to people,'' Bundy said. "But that's a tough lineup over there. They didn't swing at too many pitches that were borderline pitches, and they fouled off the good ones. So, tough team."
The day started promisingly, with shortstop Tim Beckham hitting his 19th home run of the year to lead off the bottom of the first inning. Chris Davis brought home two more runs in second inning with his 23rd homer of the season.
But the Orioles have made a habit this year of going silent at the plate after jumping out to a quick lead. From the moment that Davis hit his moon shot that barely cleared the left-field fence, Yankees pitchers retired 17 of the next 20 batters and allowed just three hits — one of them a last-gasp solo home run by Welington Castillo in the bottom of the ninth — the rest of the way.
Yankees starter Jordan Montgomery settled down after the first two innings but did not get through five. The New York bullpen did the rest.
The Orioles came into the game with victories in nine of their previous 11 games and had closed to within 3 1/2 games of the Yankees and 1 1/2 games of the Minnesota Twins, who occupy the second AL wild-card slot.
They climbed over four teams to enter the series tied with the Los Angeles Angels at the top of the list of other wild-card contenders and need to win the final series of this homestand to stay there. That became problematic when their ace blew the three-run lead Monday and they must now turn to Jeremy Hellickson, who has struggled in three of his past four starts.
The two-run deficit after five innings wasn't insurmountable, but reliever Miguel Castro also struggled with his command and walked three batters in a two-run sixth inning.
"I don't care who you're facing," Showalter said. "They're a pretty patient team when they see that. Whether it's them or someone else, they see you're having a little trouble commanding the ball, then they get real patient."
While Yankees reliever Chad Green came on to stifle the Orioles lineup for 2 1/3 innings and David Robertson shook off a couple of no-out walks to pitch a scoreless eighth to set up hard-throwing Dellin Betances, the O's bullpen looked very much like it was feeling the effects of the season-high 25 appearances it made last week.
Castro got out of the fifth inning without incident, but would walk three batters in 1 1/3 innings. Donnie Hart came on to give up an RBI groundout and a walk. And Richard Rodriguez allowed an RBI single for the Yankees' final run.
"There's so many things that happen this time of the year,'' Showalter said. "They don't make the moves they made in July and June. They've got all those bullets down there. They've got 12 people down there if you count [Jaime] Garcia. You're able to do that. We couldn't today because I had like three or four guys I wasn't going use today. We had to do that to win the previous game. Everything is effect-countereffect."