ESPN analyst Orel Hershiser summed things up nicely towards the end of Sunday night’s death march: “The players who should be on the bench are in the starting lineup, and the players who should be in the lineup are on the disabled list.” It’s nothing new, but if Mariano Duncan were still around, he’d probably print up t-shirts with that explanation emblazoned across the chest. Admitting the problem is the first step.
At first glance it seemed as if the Yankees might have had the edge in Sunday night’s matchup in Baltimore, with Hiroki Kuroda going up against Chris Tillman, but Tillman’s been pretty good this year. In fact, the Orioles had won Tillman’s last seven starts, and Tillman had gotten the win in all but one of those games. Any American League pitcher with a 9-2 record and an ERA under four must be doing something right, and Tillman’s doing something right.
Regardless of how good Tillman might be, the Orioles have been carried by their hitting, and it didn’t take long for the Baltimore bats to make themselves heard. With one out in the first inning, third baseman Manny Machado hit a clothesline into the left field bleachers to give the Orioles a 1-0 lead and send a dagger into the heart of Yankee Universe. Even with all the talk we hear about Mike Trout and Bryce Harper, Machado just might be the best of the three, and as he circled the bases I couldn’t help but wonder where the next Yankee hero might come from. The prospects we’ve waited patiently for over the past few years (Jesus Montero, Austin Jackson, Austin Romine, Eduardo Nuñez, Slade Heathcott, Brandon Laird, etc.) have either been traded away, failed to make the majors, or simply evolved into interchangeable parts. In Machado, the Orioles have the face of their franchise for the next fifteen years. Wouldn’t that be nice?
The Yankee hitters weren’t thinking about any of that, though, as they managed to scrape together enough offense to tie the game in the top of the second. With runners on first and third and two outs, David Adams walked to load the bases, and Brett Gardner followed that with another walk to force in a run. It wasn’t exciting, but it was a run!
Just a few minutes later the Orioles struck back with yet another home run from Chris Davis, his 31st of the season and third of the series, and Nate McLouth homered in the next inning to give Baltimore a 3-1 lead.
The Yankees, meanwhile, were hitting as if their bats were made of apple sauce instead of ash. Only nine hitters came to bat in the third, fourth, and fifth innings (Hafner singled in the third but was thrown out at second trying to stretch), and except for a ten-pitch at bat by Brett Gardner in the fifth, Tillman never once had to work hard.
Canó led off the sixth with a solo home run to right center, giving the Yankees just a glimmer of hope, but that hope never amounted to much more than a glimmer, even when they put two runners on in the seventh and again in the ninth. Somehow those two rallies never felt like rallies.
After the 4-2 loss, the Yankees now find themselves in fourth place in the five-team American League East, and it won’t be long before they’re in the cellar. These are dark days, my friend. Dark days.
[Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images]