The beginning of the Orioles’ final road trip of the season landed them at the one place they’ve actually played well this season: Yankee Stadium.
But as this Orioles team limps to the finish of the franchise’s worst season, it opened a 10-game stretch Friday against three teams positioned for the postseason.
The New York Yankees still had plenty to play for Friday night — the right to host the American League wild-card game.
And the Orioles offense was game, rallying from an early six-run deficit to come within one run on the heels of three homers. But each time the Orioles broke through with the bats, the pitching staff would give runs back in what ended as a 10-8 loss to a Yankees team clinging to the first AL wild-card spot.
“We talked about it before the game that there’s a lot of teams depending on us,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “I didn’t have to tell them that. They knew that. Everybody was shaking their head in there. We’re going to make it as hard as we can on them. A lot of good things offensively but the walks hurt us. … A lot of young players did some good things. But it’s just the pitching. We’re just not quite, I don’t know if you want to say ‘mature enough.’ We do some good things, but we can’t [string] together a lot of sequences.”
The Orioles (44-109) matched their best run total this month, rallying with four runs in the eighth on two-run homers by Renato Núñez and DJ Stewart to cut the New York lead to 9-8. But the Orioles bullpen kept giving runs back, as it did in the bottom of the eighth, when Paul Fry yielded a critical insurance run on Aaron Judge’s RBI double.
Orioles right-hander Yefry Ramírez (1-7) couldn’t get out of the fourth inning — further clouding whether his future is as a starter or a long reliever — as he allowed six runs over 3 2/3 frames. Two of his three walks ended up scoring on home run balls.
The Orioles entered the night having won four of six games at Yankee Stadium this year, but they came into the Bronx having lost 11 of their previous 12 games on the road.
Ramírez allowed a pair of two run homers, a first-inning shot by Didi Gregorius and a fourth-inning blast by Aaron Hicks onto the short porch in right. That chased Ramírez from the game in a four-run fourth.
“I think I threw too many balls today, missing in the strike zone,” Ramírez said through interpreter Ramón Alarcón. “I think that’s what hurt me tonight and unfortunately I wasn’t able to [be] consistent in the strike zone tonight.”
Meanwhile, the Orioles were flummoxed by 38-year-old Yankees left-hander CC Sabathia (8-7), who held them to two runs over six innings.
Despite letting the first two batters of the game reach base, Ramírez was one strike away from a scoreless first inning. He walked Hicks to open the game, then allowed a single to Judge, before Andrew McCutchen hit into a 5-4-3 double play.
Ramírez pitched ahead of Gregorius 0-2. But Gregorius worked the count full before hitting a slider over the right-field fence on the eighth pitch of the at-bat.
In the fourth, Neil Walker lined a ball to right field that Adam Jones backpedaled on and nearly caught over his shoulder, but it popped out of his glove for a double. Gleyber Torres then hit an RBI single up the middle, stole second, moved to third on a passed ball and scored on Austin Romine’s RBI groundout.
Ramírez wouldn’t stop the damage from there. He walked Brett Gardner, drawing a visit from pitching coach Roger McDowell before Hicks hit a 3-1 fastball into the second deck in right.
Catcher Austin Wynns was also charged with two passed balls and allowed a stolen base in the fourth.
“It was unacceptable with those passed balls,” Wynns said. “We had a little hiccup with the signs, and then I missed that other one. Just … yeah, can’t happen. Just bottom line with our pitching — we have to get ahead early, put them away. Right now, we’re like nitpicking. We put ourselves in situations where we just don’t execute. That’s the big word right there: execution. We need to get better at that and this game’s on me. This game’s on me.”
The Orioles’ only runs off Sabathia came on Jones’ two-out, two-run flare single to left field that scored Núñez and Cedric Mullins in the fifth.
Wynns opened the seventh with a solo homer — his fourth of the season — off Yankees reliever Jonathan Loaisiga. Jonathan Villar’s RBI single off former Orioles closer Zach Britton later that inning cut the Yankees’ lead to 6-4.
But in the bottom of the inning, left-hander Donnie Hart allowed a leadoff single to Hicks, and right-hander Cody Carroll walked Judge and allowed an RBI single to McCutchen.
Carroll then snagged a comebacker off the bat of Gregorius and caught Judge in a rundown to prevent a run from scoring, but Luke Voit drove in two more with a single to give the Yankees a 9-4 lead the Orioles could not erase.
Núñez hit his sixth homer of the season off A.J. Cole in the eighth and Stewart homered for the second consecutive night with a blast off David Robertson later that inning.
“It was awesome,” Wynns said of the offense. “It was awesome. We battled, and we showed we had some fight. That’s good. We just didn’t turn over and play good. It’s good. It showed we have some room to get better, which we will. We will and keep moving forward. Nights like this, don’t let this dwell, move forward and keep getting better.”