It is becoming an all-too-familiar story. The Orioles finally put together a solid offensive performance and take what appears to be a comfortable lead only to have the game unravel in embarrassing fashion.
Instead of scoring an uplifting win against the first-place New York Yankees, the combination of a few poorly located pitches and a some sketchy defense in the late innings set them up for another frustrating collapse, and one made more discouraging by the growing chorus of "Let’s Go Yankees!” in their own ballpark.
The Orioles wasted a third straight quality start by Andrew Cashner when the Yankees scored in each of the last four innings to open the four-game series at Camden Yards with a 10-7 victory before an announced crowd of 16,457.
The O’s hammered left-hander J.A. Happ for six runs over 3 2/3 innings, only to see the game slip away when Mychal Givens could not hold on to what was left of that big lead after entering the game with the Orioles up two with two outs in the eighth inning.
He allowed a home run to Gleyber Torres on his first pitch of the game and allowed back-to-back singles to open the ninth to set up a game-tying sacrifice fly and a three-run homer to Gary Sánchez.
The game-breaking home run was made more galling by the fact that the inning would have ended with the score tied if catcher Pedro Severino had not lost sight of a pop foul by Luke Voit and allowed it to land harmlessly a few feet behind the plate. Voit would draw a walk and Sánchez would fall behind in the count before hitting a line drive into the left-field bleachers.
Givens stepped up to take the blame for the loss, but there was plenty to go around after a strong defensive performance in the early innings devolved into a series of fundamental mistakes that kept the Yankees moving easily around the bases.
“It’s a tough loss,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “We just did some things over the last couple of innings that allowed extra base runners, allowed runners to move up. We played winning baseball for seven innings and just didn’t the last two innings.”
It doesn’t get much more deflating than that. The Orioles had come home from a dismal weekend in Cleveland during which the offense had managed just a run on six hits over the final two games of the four-game series.
They broke right out of that funk in the early innings Monday night and rolled up 13 hits — including four by substitute leadoff hitter Hanser Alberto. Eight of those hits were for extra bases.
“I thought our ABs the first seven innings were probably the best we had all year,” Hyde said. “I thought Cash threw the ball great. Gave us everything he had. Grinded through that sixth inning. And we just didn’t play well over the last two innings, for whatever reason.”
Alberto was a triple away from hitting for the cycle after the fourth inning. He had two more chances, but had to settle for a career-high four-hit performance that included his third home run of the season.
He was in the leadoff spot because he entered the game with a .385 average against left-handed pitching that ranked third in the major leagues, but he also entered the game with just four hits in his previous 34 at-bats.
Alberto, who raised his average to .287, said it felt good to see a return for the hard work he has been putting in, but acknowledged that it was a very tough loss for everyone in the clubhouse.
“We were battling the whole time and we lost the game at the end,’’ he said. “It’s a little frustrating, but we got to turn the page and get ready for tomorrow.”
It is only May and it was Happ’s fourth — and worst — appearance against the Orioles. He lasted just 3 2/3 innings and allowed six runs on nine hits to drop his record to 3-4 and raise his ERA to 5.16.
Cashner was about to improve his record to 5-2 after the Orioles scored just a run in each of his previous two quality starts, but he allowed two runs in his final inning and the bullpen — once again — could not hold things together.
“There were a couple things we could have done better,’’ Cashner said, “whether it’s hitting the cutoff man, whether it’s throwing [to the wrong] base. … I think there’s a lot of things you could point at and kind of pick and choose. If I get DJ [LeMahieu] in the first of the sixth, maybe that inning is a little bit different.
“I think, as a whole, we just have to learn from it and keep working. … This was the toughest one of the season, for sure.”
Givens has pitched very well this year and Hyde said that he would give him the ball in that situation every time he’s available, but he ended up allowing five earned runs in 1 1/3 innings and blew up his ERA to 4.71.
The ninth-inning homer by Sanchez was his 13th of the year. The eighth-inning homer by Torres was his second of the game and 10th of the year.
Torres has an interesting power profile this season. Eight of his 10 homers have come against the Orioles.
The Yankees didn’t have any trouble keeping the O’s quiet during their comeback. Zack Britton pitched a scoreless eighth to get the victory. Aroldis Chapman allowed the tying run to come to the plate in the ninth, but got each of the final three outs by strikeout to get his 12th save.