Oddly enough, things actually felt pretty good for the Yankees early in the game, as they caught most of the breaks. Ichiro Suzuki scored in the first inning on a circus move, and Andy Pettitte was generally solid, though he did hit one rough patch in the third inning. After retiring the first eight men he faced, Pettitte allowed the next five Orioles, though only two would score thanks to a fortuitous event in which J.J. Hardy failed to score from second on a slow ground ball that rolled into the outfield because he saw neither the ball get past Derek Jeter nor his third base coach waving him home. After that Pettitte would more or less settle in, and gave the Yankees a chance to break through at multiple opportunities.
Things really began to go bad in the fourth inning, however, when the Yankees loaded the bases with one out but failed to score even a single run. Curtis Granderson actually lined a single into center field but a gimpy Mark Teixeira had no chance of making it home against Adam Jones‘ arm, and then Eduardo Nunez flailed a weak pop up to the shortstop position, dampening the Yankees’ chances severely before a Jeter ground out stomped them out completely. The Orioles would manage to tack on an insurance run in the sixth inning when Mark Reynolds followed a Matt Wieters double by poking a single past a not-diving Cano to bring Wieters around to score (seriously, I’m not one to complain about a lack of grititude, but considering that Cano just did the exact same thing roughly a month ago in Tampa Bay it was really frustrating. All you have to do is nock the ball down to keep the slow as molasses Wieters from scoring). That run would prove to be huge when Nunez created a run with his legs in the very next inning, racing to second when Chris Davis missed adiving catch in the outfield and scoring quickly on a good piece of hitting by Jeter.
Unfortunately for the Yankees, the Orioles turned the game over to their bullpen after Ichiro made the first out, and the Bombers never really even threatened the Orioles’ relievers. Darren O’Day got A-Rod to strike out swinging on a 3-2 slider, and after Ichiro stole second base, the Orioles elected to have Brian Matusz walk Cano to face Nick Swisher. After wild pitch, Swisher flied a 3-2 pitch high into left field for the third out, and the Yankees would only get one more base runner in the game when Mark Teixeira led off the eighth inning with yet another long single, this one into the left field corner. he didn’t get thrown out at second, but the Yankees didn’t get him that far either.
The one bright spot in the game was Pettitte, who finished seven innings and faced on hitter in the eighth, finishing the game by allowing three runs on seven hits and a walk with five strikeouts. David Robertson also turned in a quality outing by getting two weak balls and striking out Mark Reynolds in the eighth inning. He threw 12 pitches in the game, 9 of which were curveballs. The position players were just terrible, however, especially at the plate where only three balls were hit particularly well. Those were Teixeira’s eighth inning single, the Cano double into the right field corner that scored Ichiro in the first inning, and Jeter’s seventh inning RBI single. That last one wasn’t even hit particularly hard, just dinking ovr the shortstop and into the outfield, but Jeter did make a really good adjustment to the way Chen was pitching him in the at bat and pulled the two strike pitch for the single rather than simply trying to go the other way with it. That that’s one of the most positive offensive moments I can come up with from tonight goes to show you exactly what kind of performance it was.
Now the two teams will head back to New York to finish the series locked in a 1-1 tie, which isn’t so bad in its own right, but feels a lot worse than it should given the way tonight’s game went. We’ve simply seen this offense lay an egg far too many times in the second half this year to feel good at all about watching it happen in a very winnable playoff game. Hiroki Kuroda will get the ball for the Yankees as they try to take the pivotal Game 3, but he’ll be opposed by Orioles’ righty Miguel Gonzalez, who has set a personal best for strikeouts in a game each of the last two times he’s faced the Yankees. Is this starting to feel like last year’s ALDS to anyone else?