September 1, 2012; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano (24) hits a home run during the fourth inning of a game against the Baltimore Orioles at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-US PRESSWIRE
For the first six innings, it was another slough of a game today for the offense as Baltimore Orioles starter Wei-Yin Chen shut the New York Yankees' offense down, just as teammate Miguel Gonzalez did last night. It was not shutout baseball, as Robinson Cano lined an opposite-field homer to left in the fourth inning, but the offense was very quiet otherwise. Making matters worse was the fact that slugging center fielder Curtis Granderson left the game in the second inning with a tight right hamstring (later revealed to be tendinitis). He was visibly in pain after his second inning at bat, and he was replaced in center field in the top of the third. The injury made an already-weak batting order even worse, as Steve Pearce replaced him. The defense scrambled as Nick Swisher moved from first base to right field, Andruw Jones moved to left field, and Ichiro Suzuki moved to center field for just the third time this year.
In the meantime, the Orioles jumped on a wild David Phelps for three hits and an ugly six walks in 4.2 innings. A leadoff walk in the first led to right fielder Nick Markakis coming around to score, as did DH Chris Davis's leadoff hit by pitch in the second inning. Baltimore's third run came on a leadoff homer to left in the third inning by catcher Matt Wieters. Phelps clearly was not doing so well with the leadoff hitters. He was lucky that the Orioles failed to score more runs since they stranded runners in scoring position in the first, second, and fifth innings. Phelps departed in favor of Cody Eppley in that fifth inning situation, and the ROOGY came up with a huge out by getting All-Star Adam Jones to fly out to left field. Lefty Boone Logan pitched two scoreless innings in the sixth and seventh, but the Orioles made it interesting in both of those frames as well. A double play from Mark Reynolds ended the sixth, and after a Jayson Nix error on a bunt with one out allowed hot prospect Manny Machado to second, where he was stranded when Logan struck out Markakis and induced a fly ball from Nate McLouth. Still, the offense had just two hits through six innings against Chen. The outlook wasn't brilliant for the New York nine.
Pearce came through with his first hit as a Yankee, a single to left field with one out, but punchless catcher Russell Martin popped out to right field and Nix fell to an 0-2 count. One strike from Chen would have ended another scoreless inning. He battled back to work a walk though, and up came Eduardo Nunez, the DH in his game back with the Yankees since mid-May. Nunez lined a base hit to center to score Pearce, making it a one-run game. At 101 pitches and tiring, Chen's day was done; in came reliever Pedro Strop and his 1.86 ERA (226 ERA+) in 58 innings. Ichiro walked to load the bases. Jeter also fell behind 0-2 and worked the game-tying walk to bring home Nix. Swisher battled Strop to a 3-2 count, then hit a grounder to shortstop J.J. Hardy. The AL leader in fielding percentage (take that with a grain of salt) bobbled it twice and the Yankees took the lead.
David Robertson and Rafael Soriano pitched 1-2-3 innings in the eighth and ninth to painlessly end the game in a much-needed 4-3 victory. The bullpen deserves a great deal of credit for the win, proving 4.1 scoreless innings in relief of Phelps. The Yankees expanded their division lead over the Orioles to three games. For now, they rest. Phil Hughes takes on Chris Tillman as the Yankees look for the series victory tomorrow afternoon.
Flying Falcor of the Day goes to Rafael Soriano, whose dominant ninth shut down any hope the Orioles had of coming back and gave them a one-run loss for a change. (1 IP, 2 K, .176 WPA, Sv).
Kangaroo Kick of the Day goes to Andruw Jones, who looked nothing like a cleanup hitter (0-4, -.097 WPA).