May 29, 2023

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Recurring problem: How to beat the Orioles

4 min read

BALTIMORE — Aroldis Chapman’s 10th and final pitch was a slider that sailed without enough bite, hanging up and away for a walk-off walk that forced home the winning run. As the Orioles poured out of their dugout and celebrated near first base, lauding Ramón Urías for his restraint, Aaron Boone lost it.

The Yankees’ manager rushed to intercept catcher Jose Trevino, then chased Tom Hallion toward the tunnel that leads to the umpires’ room at Camden Yards. Ejected from a game no longer being played, Boone, and his club, grimly swallowed a 2-1, 11-inning loss to the Orioles on Friday evening.

“It was frustrating to not put more on the board tonight,” Boone said, still absorbing his outburst. “We’ve got to get over it, come out and put together good at-bats [Saturday]. … I don’t know. There was a lot of frustration there.”

It is a new season, but the Yankees’ loss carried echoes of storylines from the past year. New York finished 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position, and it owns a .180 mark through eight games (11-for-61) that continues to rank near the bottom of the Majors.

“We probably just need one to break it open and get it going,” said first baseman Anthony Rizzo. “Throughout this early start, we’ve given ourselves a couple of looks a night. I think once we capitalize on a couple, it’s just contagious.”

Maybe so, but Boone’s club also seems to be having trouble with Baltimore, an issue that had ramifications on the Yankees’ postseason chase last year.

The Yankees had to visit Fenway Park for a one-game playoff in the American League Wild Card Game last October, rather than hosting that contest in the Bronx, in part because of their difficulty in handling a 110-loss Orioles club. Baltimore defeated New York three times in six tries in September.

“I don’t really care who it is; we need to get wins,” infielder DJ LeMahieu said. “I feel like we were hyped up and ready to go at home, and to come here, we can’t let our guard down. We just need to keep going and get wins.”

The Yankees’ 11-8 record against the Orioles in 2021 was the worst of any team in the division, behind the Rays (18-1), Blue Jays (14-5) and Red Sox (13-6). New York also fell to 1-4 in extra-inning games against Baltimore since the beginning of the ’21 season.

“That’s a really good club,” said O’s manager Brandon Hyde. “We’ve played them a little more competitively than other teams in our division. I’m sure they’ll be playing us to win the rest of the year.”

In his cooldown moments, Chapman sat at his locker, still dressed in his full uniform with Jackie Robinson’s royal blue No. 42 stitched upon the back.

Elbows resting upon his quadriceps, Chapman stared at an iPad, studying the shape of each pitch — including the final slider to Urías, a pitch that Trevino said he called because Chapman told the catcher that he had “a good feel for it.”

“Watching those pitches there, they were close. Very close,” Chapman said through an interpreter. “But at the end, I lost the batter. It could have gone either way.”

Any clubhouse gripes about strikes not called for Chapman — and also some during Clarke Schmidt’s 1 1/3 innings of relief — obscured a more significant issue about at-bats and baserunning that left plenty to be desired.

Giancarlo Stanton put the Yankees on the board with a third-inning RBI single, supporting starter Jordan Montgomery, who hurled five sharp innings in a 71-pitch effort. With the club threatening for more in the sixth, Aaron Hicks grounded into a bases-loaded, inning-ending double play.

The Yankees wouldn’t have another man aboard until the 10th, when Hicks trotted to second base as an automatic runner. They wouldn’t put another hit in the books until the 11th, when Stanton smashed a ground ball to third that clipped a helpless Rizzo in the foot, erasing him from the basepaths.

“I thought I had a good jump,” Rizzo said. “The ball just hopped up and hit me. I was kind of like, ‘How’d that happen?’”

In a turn of events that has been far too familiar, the Yankees came away from an Orioles matchup asking themselves the same question.

“I don’t think we’ve played to our capabilities yet,” LeMahieu said. “But we’re getting there.”

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