The Yankees and the Baltimore Orioles occupy different ends of the competition spectrum. The Yankees possess a far more talented roster, World Series expectations and a payroll that is around $130 million larger. The Orioles lost 115 games last season, and some analysts believe they could lose more this year with a pared-down roster.
Three games into the season, the Yankees have now lost to the Orioles twice, including a clunky 7-5 defeat on a chilly, wet Sunday.
“Not ideal,” the Yankees’ starting pitcher, J. A. Happ, said after Sunday’s game, which was delayed 3 hours 17 minutes because of rain. Happ took his first Yankee Stadium loss since August 2013; he had won seven consecutive decisions there.
A day after the star right fielder Aaron Judge said the Yankees needed to learn from the mistakes of last year and capitalize on opportunities regardless of opponent, the Yankees featured uneven pitching and sputtering hitting.
Over their two losses, the Yankees stranded 25 runners and went 5 for 21 with runners in scoring position.
Part of the difference between the Yankees, who won 100 games and earned a wild-card berth last year, and the Boston Red Sox, who won 108 and claimed the American League East crown and eventually the World Series, was how they fared against the Orioles. The Red Sox won 16 of 19 games; the Yankees won 12.
“We had them on the ropes and weren’t able to get the job done,” Judge said of the Orioles. “Like I said, we’ve got to play like our backs are against the wall.”
Much like their performance the day before, the Yankees’ hitters sputtered. They could not turn five walks by the Orioles’ starter, Dylan Bundy, over three and two-thirds innings into more than three runs.
Most of the Yankees’ runs came in the fourth inning when Brett Gardner drew a bases-loaded walk and Judge delivered a two-run single. But Judge finished the game with four strikeouts and left six men on base. Luke Voit, the designated hitter, stranded seven.
“Disappointed with the start we’ve gotten off to,” Gardner said. “We’ve got a lot of baseball left.”
Among the problems for the Yankees, besides the uneven offense, was catcher Gary Sanchez, who has been hoping to rebound from the worst all-around season of his career. For a second straight game, he had a throwing error on a stolen base attempt, with this one contributing to an Orioles run in the fifth inning.
He somewhat atoned for his defensive mistake — and strikeouts in his three previous at-bats — with a solo home run in the seventh inning off John Means.
The Yankees’ pitching did not help, either. Making his season debut after re-signing in the off-season, Happ allowed four runs over four innings. All of the scoring off Happ, who is a fly-ball pitcher, came on home runs: a three-run blast in the first inning by Renato Nunez and a bases-empty homer in the fourth by Trey Mancini.
Although Happ settled in after a jagged first inning, his high pitch count and coming matchups prompted Manager Aaron Boone to turn the game over to Luis Cessa and the bullpen.
Any chance of a comeback was lowered when Stephen Tarpley allowed a two-run homer to Joey Rickard in the eighth inning that pushed the Orioles’ lead to 7-4. And when the Yankees again threatened in the ninth, they squandered another opportunity with runners on base.
“That’s one part I feel good about: We’re creating opportunities,” Boone said. “Up and down the lineup, we’re getting those chances. Now we’ve got to break through.”