Since making the Orioles’ rotation out of spring training, Bruce Zimmermann’s reveries of pitching at Camden Yards for the home team became reality.
Tuesday night’s start introduced him to some of the more rugged aspects of that role he so long sought: a visit from the rival New York Yankees as the warm, sticky air arrived at Camden Yards to make the park feel like a postage stamp.
New York’s slumbering sluggers woke up to hit Zimmermann hard Tuesday in a 5-1 Orioles loss before an announced 6,662, with Aaron Judge blasting the hardest-hit home run that Statcast has ever tracked at the park as part of a nine-hit barrage against the young left-hander.
“Obviously, he gave up a lot of hard contact early, kind of battled through those first three innings,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “That wasn’t his best night for him. They squared him up quite a bit. He’s got to be able to pitch in a little bit more.”
The onslaught started early for the Yankees as DJ LeMahieu stung a double on the second pitch of the game and came around to score in what was otherwise a quick 11-pitch inning. Zimmermann stranded two in the second inning and won an inning-opening battle in the third by striking out Giancarlo Stanton before Judge’s 116.2 mph blast to left field.
After a one-out home run by Kyle Higashioka in the fourth, the Yankees loaded the bases and chased Zimmermann in the fourth on two singles and a walk. Stanton’s revenge in that inning was a 119.3-mph single — the hardest-hit ball ever tracked at Camden Yards.
Dillon Tate allowed one of those runs to score on a single by Gio Urshela before Stanton was cut down at home to end the inning by Austin Hays’ second outfield assist in as many nights.
Zimmermann said that while he felt good about his stuff and was encouraged by the work he did to get back into his delivery since his last start, all the hard contact was telling him he wasn’t executing the way he needed to.
In his first four starts, opponents hit the ball an average of 87.8 mph off Zimmmermann. On Tuesday, it was 97.8 mph.
“I just wasn’t keeping them off-balance enough with that fastball in,” Zimmermann said. “But I think I liked my off-speed tonight for the most part. I thought it had really good shape. I just have to do a better job setting it up to keep those big swingers off-balance.”
Stanton homered off Tate to begin the seventh inning as Tate again turned in an efficient relief outing by recording eight outs on 26 pitches.
Can’t clobber Kluber
Two-time Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber struggled to the tune of a 5.40 ERA with a 1.933 WHIP in his first four starts in pinstripes, but didn’t run into such trouble against the Orioles.
Their first hit came in the fourth inning when Trey Mancini doubled, went to third on a groundout by DJ Stewart and scored on an infield single by Maikel Franco.
The Orioles threatened later in the game, but stranded two runners in each of the sixth, seventh, and eighth innings.
Franco had two of the Orioles’ seven hits. In 23 games, the Orioles (10-13) have scored two runs or less in nine of them.
Flaa debuts, sent down
A day after being summoned from the alternate training site in Bowie as bullpen depth, right-hander Jay Flaa made his major league debut with 1 ⅓ innings of scoreless relief before being sent back to the Bowie camp to open a roster spot for Wednesday’s starter, Dean Kremer.
After recording the final out of the eighth inning, Flaa walked the first two batters before getting Stanton to ground into a double play and fanning Judge for his first career strikeout in the ninth.
“I think he was setting them up,” Hyde said. “Two walks to start the inning — escape artist. That was obviously really cool.”
Flaa, a senior taken in the sixth round of the 2015 MLB draft who signed for $10,000, logged 165 appearances in the Orioles’ farm system before his debut Tuesday. He had his parents, his neighbors, and his girlfriend and her parents at Camden Yards for his debut, which he said hadn’t sunk in shortly after the game ended.
“I don’t know that it will for quite some time,” Flaa said.
The 28-year-old Flaa relieved Cole Sulser, who struck out two in 1 ⅓ innings of scoreless relief.
Wednesday, 7:05 p.m.
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