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Orioles rally from early deficit only to blow ninth-inning lead in 8-6 loss to Yankees

The Orioles have waited a long time to beat the New York Yankees. They entered the season with a 16-game losing streak to their American League East foe. They were set to open the year against them in March before the coronavirus pandemic delayed the season by four months. Even Thursday, they had to sit through a 1-hour, 34-minute rain delay to get the chance to rally from a five-run first inning deficit.

They did so, but Pedro Severino’s go-ahead home run in the bottom of the eighth didn’t hold up when Aaron Judge answered with a three-run shot off Cole Sulser in the top of the ninth to propel New York to an 8-6 victory. It was the Yankees 18th straight win over the Orioles and 17th straight at Camden Yards.

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“That’s tough, man,” Orioles third baseman Rio Ruiz said. “We battle them. We play them really well. They just end up on the winning side more than we’d like, obviously.”

Orioles All-Star left-hander John Means struggled in his season debut, allowing five runs in the first inning — including a grand slam from Luke Voit — despite having increased velocity from the year before.

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But the Orioles answered quickly, with Hanser Alberto and Ruiz hitting two-run home runs off Yankees left-hander J.A. Happ in the first and second innings, respectively. But the score remained 5-4 through the middle innings. A lengthy rain delay threatened to prematurely end the game and give the Yankees a sweep in the impromptu two-game series, necessitated in the wake of schedule changes because of the Miami Marlins’ coronavirus outbreak.

Jonathan Loáisiga took the mound for New York out of the delay and worked 2 1/3 scoreless innings before hitting Anthony Santander with an out in the eighth. Severino drove the next pitch, a 97-mph fastball off the plate in, down the left-field line to give the Orioles their first lead.

It was short-lived, with Sulser allowing a walk and single among the first three batters he faced before Judge hammered a 3-1 fastball to left. Sulser’s Orioles debut was a two-inning save in Boston, giving the 30-year-old 9 1/3 scoreless innings to start his major league career.

“He’s gonna continue to get the opportunities,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “I really like his stuff.”

Former Orioles closer Zack Britton shut Baltimore down in the ninth. Britton is filling in for Aroldis Chapman as New York’s closer with Chapman having tested positive for COVID-19.

Steps in the right direction

Between Means’ rough start and Sulser’s disastrous ninth, the Orioles’ bullpen put together 5 2/3 scoreless innings.

After a rough first appearance as an Oriole on Opening Day, right-hander Travis Lakins Sr. picked up after Means and matched a career-high with 2 2/3 scoreless innings, striking out three and allowing three hits. Right fielder Cedric Mullins helped keep the Yankees off the board with a diving catch in the fifth to rob Tyler Wade, who replaced Yankees shortstop Gleyber Torres a half-inning earlier. Torres, who hit a record 13 home runs against the Orioles in 2019, was hit in the right elbow by a Means fastball in the first inning. He went 0-for-5 in the series.

Miguel Castro pitched a scoreless top of the sixth before the rain prompted the delay, then Richard Bleier continued his strong start by retiring all four batters he faced. Mychal Givens then stranded two Yankees with a pair of strikeouts.

Rallying with Rio

Ruiz has homered three times in four starts this season, one of only 10 major leaguers with at least three home runs in the season’s first week.

Since rejoining the Orioles after a brief demotion to the minors last summer, Ruiz has 10 home runs in 127 at-bats, with a slugging percentage of .512 in that time.

Hyde was pleased with Ruiz’s left-on-left homer, as well as the Orioles’ collective at-bats and ability to rally.

“I thought we had a really nice comeback, being down 5-0 to a really good club, good pitching staff,” Hyde said. “To be able to take the lead there in the eighth inning shows a lot about our guys, sitting here during the rain delay and coming back out.”

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