Normally, going into Yankee Stadium is a nightmare for the Orioles and their pitchers (they went 2-7 with a 6.49 ERA there last year). Their first trip to New York was a bit more impressive this season.
On Monday, Jason Hammel continued to impress with a 6 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 5 K, 1 HR line. He got more groundballs than flyballs, plus 7 swings and misses on his fastballs. That two-seamer has been doing some work this year. Unfortunately the O's could only scrape one run across, and Hammel fell to 3-1 on the season with the 2-1 loss.
Tuesday it was Brian Matusz's second crack at the Yankees' lineup (his first start in 2012 was 4 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 4 BB, 1 K). Things had been on an upward trend since then, though the win eluded him despite a nice start against the Blue Jays last week (6 IP, 0 ER). Better luck in NY, as Matusz had perhaps his best game - 6.1 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 4 K, 1 HR - and the offense actually helped him out with 7 runs. The W was Matusz's first since June of 2011 (a streak of 14 games during which he went 0-12).
On to the rubber match of the series:The Good:
- Jake Arrieta managed to keep his command for the whole game, and ended up looking mighty impressive as a result. 94 mph moving fastballs on the outside corner and big-time curves down and in are just unfair. Got whiffs on his four-seamer (1), two-seamer (3), curveball (4), slider (1), and change-up (1). Just complete control. Final line; 8 IP, 5 H (all singles, 2 erased on double plays), 0 R, 0 BB, 9 K.
- His first time up, Matt Wieters walk on four pitch. His next time up, Ivan Nova started him with two more pitches out of the zone. And then we saw why, as Wieters deposited the first strike he saw into the right-field seats. On the night, Wieters took 11 of the 12 balls thrown to him (and poked the 12th down the third-base line for an infield single) and swung at all 7 strikes (homer, long double off the top of the wall, groundout, four fouls) - that's a pretty nice approach right there. Looking to lock up that "best catcher in baseball" tag.
- It was also good to see Nick Markakis turn on a couple pitches in addition to his usual opposite-field double, lining one into the right-center gap (that was caught) and then crushing one into the bleachers. That was his first homer since the second game of the season.
- Nick Johnson broke out of his 0-fer Tuesday with a double, and added two more hits in this one (a double, and a single off of a lefty). At this rate, he'll get 4 hits next game and should have his batting average above .500 within two weeks.
- JJ Hardy also singled and doubled on the day, while Robert Andino singled three times and walked (now has a .433 BABIP on the season).
- The O's did waste a number of additional scoring chances, including leaving the bases loaded in the first inning. If they had been a little better about that, this one could have been a real blowout (not that it didn't already seem quite lopsided).
And the Orioles take it, 5-0. They're only 2-4 against the Yankees on the season now, but have outscored New York by 3 runs overall (23-20). The O's flat-out out-played the Yankees in this series (on the road, no less). Don't really know how to deal with this*, but it's awesome. Bonus; with the Jays putting 11 up on the Rangers, your new AL leader in team ERA is... the Baltimore Orioles. Yeah. (The last time the O's gave up less than even 4.75 runs per game in a season was... 1997, when they went wire-to-wire).
* Yes, the O's did go 47-40 before the break in 2005, with a +22 run differential. And the team's run differential right now is +23 - so they could theoretically go 31-31 with a -1 from here on out and end up in an identical place. Or they could continue their current pace and be 56-31, which would be way cooler.