December 7, 2022

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Bringer of hail: Donaldson's 1st NYY HR fuels soggy win

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BALTIMORE — Josh Donaldson felt the clean click of the ball against barrel, tracking the flight of his fifth-inning drive as it sailed toward the seats in right-center field. The bat fell out of his right hand and clattered against the dirt, a mic drop that carried just a few extra ounces of swagger.

After an impressive weather delay that sent players scattering as hail pelted the Inner Harbor, Donaldson emerged as the Yankees’ bringer of rain, blasting a go-ahead home run to cap a four-run rally in a 5-2 victory over the Orioles on Saturday night at Camden Yards.

“Maybe it was a little bit of frustration,” Donaldson said of the bat drop, “but it was a good feeling. I knew as soon as I hit it, it was going. I just kind of let go.”

The Yankees struggled with runners in scoring position through their first eight games of the season, managing only two hits out of 11 tries in Friday’s series opener, and Saturday’s contest seemed to be shaping up as more of the same.

New York was 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position through the first four frames, falling behind after Cedric Mullins clubbed a two-run homer off starter Jameson Taillon in the third. Then the storm came, lightning crackling above the B&O Warehouse in right field, and the Yanks’ clouds seemed to clear.

“It just gave us some time to regroup,” said Aaron Hicks, who went 2-for-3 with a walk and a run scored. “It gave us an opportunity to get things rolling.”

When action resumed after the 49-minute halt, Anthony Rizzo picked up an RBI single off Travis Lakins Sr., before Giancarlo Stanton stroked a game-tying RBI double to left-center field, a play that saw Rizzo tagged out at the plate after review.

Donaldson put that run back on the board, plus one, slugging a 403-foot blast that marked the veteran’s first homer for the Yankees. Boone had identified Donaldson as a leading candidate to break out entering Saturday, as he was 6-for-32 (.188) with one extra-base hit and 13 strikeouts to that point.

“We’re capable of doing that,” Donaldson said. “So far, this season has been kind of hit or miss, but I feel like we had some really good at-bats right there and we were able to take advantage of some mistakes.”

Boone said that after Donaldson’s first plate appearance — a second-inning walk against Baltimore starter Tyler Wells — the manager nudged hitting coach Dillon Lawson and remarked, “That’s it, right there.”

“I just felt like he was covering everything and letting it go, making his move,” Boone said. “I thought he got off a lot of really good swings tonight.”

Jose Trevino — making a strong case for increased playing time behind the plate — slid home headfirst for the Yanks’ fifth run on a sixth-inning wild pitch, providing more than enough offense for a New York bullpen that has been excellent in the early going.

“He’s been great,” Boone said of Trevino. “He can really catch, he’s swung the bat well in his starts so far, just running the bases really well. That was a huge run. He’s been great in the room, so I’m excited about what he’s brought so far.”

Taillon completed 4 2/3 innings, his energy sapped by having tossed in the bullpen and across the outfield grass during the delay. JP Sears entered to record three outs, with the rookie left-hander earning his first Major League win by retiring Ramón Urías on a bases-loaded fly ball in the fifth.

“It was exciting,” said Sears, who was optioned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre after the game. “I sneaked in there in the fifth, and Taillon pitched a great game. It’s something I’ll definitely remember for a long time.”

Michael King — who said that he’d prefer to be used as a starter, but is satisfied to be filling a valuable role in the bullpen — continued his excellent start to the season by tossing two scoreless innings. Clay Holmes then recorded four outs, registering his first big league save.

“It’s a good step in the right direction,” Donaldson said. “Our pitching staff has been dynamite this year. If we give those guys a little bit of help, I think good things are in the future.”

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