If it is possible for a team to make "statements" about its standing among baseball's best in May, the Baltimore Orioles are doing it. After sweeping the Toronto Blue Jays up at Rogers Centre, the Orioles indeed completed a statement 5-1 road trip by winning a tough series against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium. How much of a statement was this series win? The numbers speak for themselves.
Baltimore Orioles continue dominant start with series win over New York Yankees
As Roch Kubatko aptly noted, this series win marked the first time the Orioles have won 4 straight series against American League East Opponents since 2016 (also, the last time the Orioles reached the postseason). It also marked the first time the Orioles have won back-to-back series at Yankee Stadium since 2014. That team of course reached the ALCS.
Each game in this series had its own plot and subplots. The Orioles should have won Game 1 but lost. The Orioles should have lost Game 2 but won. Game 3 felt more "normal," with the Orioles taking the lead for good in the fifth inning and holding on to beat the Yankees, 3-1. Here is a look at the key moments of each game.
1. Game 1: Yankees 6, Orioles 5
The Orioles have not had many "gut punch" losses this season. Tuesday night's 6-5 loss to the Yankees qualifies though, and this one hurt. The Orioles built a 4-0 lead against Yankees ace Gerrit Cole on Adam Frazier's two-run double in the first and solo home runs by Cedric Mullins and Gunnar Henderson. But the Yankees potent offense woke up against Kyle Bradish, with a Harrison Bader solo blast starting the rally and the Yankees ultimately tying the game at 4. The Orioles, never rattled, responded to retake the lead in the top of the seventh on an RBI ground out by Terrin Vavra.
Mychal Givens and Yennier Cano kept the Yankees off the scoreboard in the sixth, seventh, and eighth inning (though Cano was aided by a bizarre and poorly-executed bunt play by DJ LeMahieu to record an out at the plate in the seventh). On came the Mountain, Felix Bautista, who proceeded to strike out the dangerous Gleyber Torres to start the ninth. But with an 0-2 count on Aaron Judge, Bautista made a terrible mistake by hanging a splitter, which Judge promptly crushed into the New York night to tie the game at 5. Bautista quickly struck out Anthony Rizzo and LeMahieu to send the game to the tenth, but the damage was done.
Heading to their third straight road extra innings game, the Orioles ran out of extra-inning magic. They failed to score in the top of the tenth, and a sacrifice fly by Yankee shortstop Anthony Volpe won Game 1 for New York, 6-5.
2. Game 2: Orioles 9, Yankees 6
As bitter as Game 1 was, Game 2 was just as sweet. Like having a horrible day at work but being greeted by your sweet dog's wagging when you get home, and your favorite meal waiting on the dinner table. The Yankees jumped to a 5-1 lead off of Tyler Wells and the Orioles, with Gleyber Torres continuing his reign of terror against the O's with two home runs. But these are the Orioles, and a 5-1 deficit just isn't a big deal to them. As Gunnar Henderson told the media after the game, "we're never out, don't count us out, and we'll battle back. There's no quit in this team."
The Orioles exploded for a season-high eight runs in the seventh inning against three Yankee pitchers to turn a 5-1 deficit into a 9-5 lead. Adam Frazier socked a three-run home run off the right field pole, Gunnar Henderson drove a two run double down the right field line, and Ryan Mountcastle, Anthony Santander, and Austin Hays each drove in runs to account for the crazy eight. Hays, in particular, stated the inning 0-2, and finished it 2-4. Pretty cool.
But the Orioles were playing in New York, and it was unclear if eight would, truly, be enough. Mychal Givens struggled after being summoned for his second straight appearance, and left with the bases loaded, one out, and Anthony Rizzo representing the tying run at the plate. Danny Coulombe came on and allowed an RBI single to Rizzo - just out of the reach of a diving Austin Hays - and the Yankees brought the go-ahead run to the plate. But Coulombe rebounded to strike out DJ LeMahieu and coax a fielder's choice grounder off the bat of Harrison Bader. Exhale. The Orioles maintained the lead.
With Yennier Cano likely unavailable after throwing 2 innings the night before, Coulombe pitched an uneventful eighth inning, and Felix Bautista, this time, nailed down the save. As upsetting as Game 1 was, the Orioles comeback in this game was just as thrilling. The series deciding rubber game was now on tap Thursday night.
3. Game 3: Orioles 3, Yankees 1
After the heart-pounding drama of Games 1 and 2, Game 3 was a bit calmer but still produced a great result. Kyle Gibson and Yankees starter Clarke Schmidt matched zeroes through four innings in a pitcher's duel on Thursday night. The Orioles finally broke through in the fifth inning on Anthony Santander's two out, RBI single to right that scored a sliding Adam Frazier from second base.
Gibson, meanwhile, sailed through the Yankee lineup, allowing only two hits, though he did walk four. The veteran right-hander concluded his night in style, coaxing a double play grounder from New York's Oswaldo Cabrera and making a stellar stretch at first base to complete the twin killing.
Let's give Gibson his flowers. On the road trip through Toronto and New York, Gibson allowed only one run over 14 innings, won twice, and shut down two of the American League's best offenses. Melanie Newman put Gibson's win last night into perspective:
Despite Gibson's heroics, the Orioles were still nursing a 1-0 lead heading into the eighth at Yankee Stadium on Thursday night. New York summoned its closer, Clay Holmes, to keep the game as is, but Austin Hays simply wasn't interested, belting a two-run double to right field to give the Orioles much-needed insurance and a 3-0 lead.
Hays' double turned out to be more than just window dressing. After Mike Baumann's dominant eighth inning, the Orioles summoned Yennier Cano for the save, with Judge, Rizzo, and Bader due up. Facing Judge, Cano's incredible, walkless streak to begin the season, which lasted 25.2 innings and 84 batters, ended when Judge walked on a 3-2 count. The Yankees scored their first run of the game with two outs on Willie Calhoun's double to center, and the Yankees brought the tying run to the plate. However, Tuesday's hero Anthony Volpe could not play hero on Thursday night. He lined the first pitch he saw to centerfield, which Ryan McKenna tracked down to end the game and give the Orioles a series victory over the Yankees
So, did the Orioles make a statement in taking a series in the Bronx following their sweep in Toronto? In a word, yes. Especially after the Yankees came in red hot following a sweep of the Reds and had pulled to within two games of the Orioles after Tuesday night's win. Especially after Tuesday's heartbreaking loss and the prospect of two more tough night games in New York. Especially after rallying from a 5-1 deficit Wednesday night when the Orioles could have easily packed it in for the night. But no, not this team. At least not according to Kyle Gibson:
"“I think we’re one of the best teams. We’re one of those juggernauts.”"- Kyle Gibson, after the Orioles 3-1 win.
Now at an incredible 33-17, the Orioles head home to face the 31-18 Texas Rangers, another team looking to make a statement in the American League following years of mediocrity. Yet another series before Memorial Day that the Orioles will look to make a statement in.