Despite having not pitched in a game for over a week, left-hander Bruce Zimmermann’s work with Triple-A Norfolk had lined him up to contribute to the Orioles’ pitching plans for Sunday.
He did so in a big way, providing 5 ⅔ innings of long relief as the Orioles rallied from an early four-run deficit in a 10-6 victory over the New York Yankees to end a four-game losing streak. Zimmermann, a Loyola Blakefield product who grew up an Orioles fan, became the franchise’s fourth Maryland-born pitcher to earn a win at Camden Yards in front of a season-high crowd of 11,070.
“Bruce Zimmermann won us the game by really only giving up one run there through 5 ⅔ and holding it right there for us,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “It was a great comeback for our guys.”
Having been optioned to Triple-A two weeks earlier after lasting fewer than five innings for the third straight start, Zimmermann returned Sunday after the Orioles (17-23) optioned infielder Ramón Urías. Entering with Baltimore trailing 4-2 in the second, he retired 10 of the first 11 Yankees he faced, with Aaron Judge’s fourth home run of the series accounting for the only blemish. Seven of Judge’s 12 home runs this season have been off Baltimore pitching.
The Orioles’ offense struck for four unanswered runs as New York’s only other base runners against Zimmermann came on a fifth-inning walk and seventh-inning single. When manager Brandon Hyde turned to Tanner Scott with two outs in the seventh, Zimmermann exited to a standing ovation.
Against a Yankees lineup loaded with right-handers, Zimmermann relied heavily on his changeup. He threw each of his four pitches at least a mile per hour harder than he had on average this season, according to Statcast. Although Zimmermann made only one start while with Norfolk, the Orioles kept him on schedule to play a role in Sunday’s series finale.
“I think it definitely helped,” Zimmermann said. “Gave me time to kind of step back and really identify some things that I wanted to focus on to do better up here, but obviously work on down there. I think it was great just to get down there and work on those things, also knowing I was hopefully coming back up to help the team. Just getting those innings in down there, some side work down there specifically targeting some things was definitely a huge benefit.”
After a strikeout to strand Zimmermann’s runner, Scott allowed two base runners to open the eighth, but Paul Fry followed with a double play and strikeout. César Valdez surrendered a run in the ninth but managed to record the final three outs to avoid a sweep.
Zimmermann’s lengthy outing didn’t qualify as his third quality start of 2021 because the first inning belonged to right-hander Adam Plutko. Hyde elected to use Plutko as an opener with the first eight members of New York’s lineup being right-handed, and the strategy backfired.
A leadoff walk and two singles quickly loaded the bases, though Plutko seemed positioned to minimize the damage when he allowed a run-scoring double play. But Gary Sánchez and Clint Frazier followed with back-to-back home runs.
Plutko had worked mostly as a starter with the Cleveland Indians but had yet to pitch in that role since Baltimore acquired him in a trade late in spring training. The four runs he allowed in Sunday’s one-inning start exceeded the three against him in 21 ⅓ frames of relief as an Oriole.
Zimmermann, though, said he would be open to a similar arrangement for his next outing.
“It didn’t really change my mindset,” he said. “I was coming in and I was prepared to go the starter amount of innings and get back to bearing down in the zone. Definitely don’t have an issue with that. It was kind of nice to come in and go at them right away.”
The Orioles quickly went to work erasing their early deficit. Trey Mancini worked a two-out walk and scored when Ryan Mountcastle doubled just fair into the right-field corner. Pedro Severino followed with an RBI single.
“Hand it to our club to answer there in the first inning,” Hyde said. “You’re down two games to nothing to the Yankees, you go down 4-0 against that kind of offense in the first inning, it showed a lot of character of our guys to hang in there, score a couple to keep us there. They score again, we answered again, and we had good at-bats throughout the game.”
With Zimmermann slowing the Yankees’ offense, Baltimore tied the game with three runs in the third, with Mountcastle’s sacrifice fly preceding run-scoring hits from Maikel Franco and Freddy Galvis.
After fourth-inning doubles from Cedric Mullins and Mancini gave the Orioles their first lead, Franco added some insurance with a two-run home run in the seventh, his first since April 25. Franco’s three-hit day nearly matched his total from the previous three weeks, as he entered amid a 4-for-51 slump.
Mountcastle added a two-run single in the eighth to give him his first career four-RBI game.
“I thought today was our best offensive approach that we’ve had maybe since the beginning of the season, maybe all year,” Hyde said. “The majority of our damage was done up-the-middle, the other way. Besides the Franco homer to the pull side, we really stayed on the ball well today. We battled.”
Tuesday, 7:05 p.m.
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