You had to figure CC Sabathia was due for a clunker at home at some point. As wonderful as he is at pitching, even the best have their off nights. Unfortunately Sabathia's first loss at home since July 19, 2009 -- well over a year -- coincided with Jake Arrieta's second straight dazzling start and win over the Yankees. I wonder how many rookies have won their first two starts against the Yankees? I can't imagine the list is terribly long. As noted in the Series Preview, with Brian Matusz, Jeremy Guthrie and Arrieta leading the way Baltimore is unlikely to play Yankee patsy for too much longer.
Incredibly, the Orioles wound up scoring all the runs they needed before Sabathia recorded an out in the top of the first, as the first five Orioles reached base safely on four singles and a walk to take a 3-0 lead. A three-run deficit with the entire game to play certainly felt more than surmountable, and sure enough the Yanks got one back in the first inning on a Robinson Cano RBI single.
Unfortunately Sabathia could not keep the Orioles at bay, surrendering a two-run jack to Nolan Reimold in the third that gave Baltimore a 5-1 lead. The Yankees again battled back two innings later on a Jorge Posada double that scored Lance Berkman (who had his first three-hit game as a Yankee) all the way from first to cut the lead to 5-2, but that was as close as they'd get. The Orioles tacked an unearned run on in the seventh after Curtis Granderson dropped a line drive in center that allowed Josh Bell to get to second base with none out. Sabathia then gave up a single to Brian Roberts, who already has five hits in this series, punched Felix Pie out (more on him in a moment) and then gave up a run-scoring single to Nick Markakis. That was it for the big man, who was relieved by Kerry Wood. Wood continued to look excellent in relief, picking up two straight strikeouts of Ty Wigginton and Adam Jones to end the inning.
After mounting a credible threat in the bottom of the seventh that saw the first two Yankee batters reach base with no outs, two straight bizarre force outs found the Yankees with runners on 1st and 3rd with two outs, and ultimately unable to do anything about it. The Yankees went down in order in the eighth and ninth innings, losing to the Orioles for the second straight game, 6-2, and ensuring Baltimore's first series win against New York of the season.
It's hard to get too upset about this one. Sabathia's been nails all season, and hadn't lost to the Orioles since Opening Day 2009. Additionally, Jake Arrieta was fantastic in this one -- at least from where I was sitting in the Stadium -- mixing speeds and keeping the Yankees completely off-balance with 74mph curveballs and then dialing it up to 92mph on his fastball. My buddy Sean said that Arrieta may have been the beneficiary of some generous outside strikes courtesy of the home plate umpire, but that's still no excuse. Arrieta held the potent Yankee lineup to two runs over 6 1/3 innings, and worked out of trouble just about every single time he found himself in a mess.
I don't know how Arrieta entered this game with a 5.11 ERA and 5.10 FIP on the season; he was way, way better than his numbers would indicate. In perusing his game logs it appears that a couple of abbreviated five-run outings have inflated his overall line, as he's pitched rather well against Boston, Tampa Bay and Texas during the past month. That being said, there were some pretty hard-hit balls by the Yankees that happened to find fielders, so perhaps Arrieta benefited from some BABIP luck in this one. Regardless, if I'm a Baltimore fan I'd be ecstatic at having a pitcher of Arrieta's caliber in my rotation.
As a side note, there were two hilarious things that happened at this game. For one, the moment Alex Rodriguez stepped into the on-deck circle to pinch-hit for Ramiro Pena with one out in the seventh -- which was met with thunderous applause from the Stadium -- Buck Showalter zipped out out of the dugout to lift Arrieta faster than I've ever seen a Major League manager head to the mound before. The other was the fact that from the second inning on, the Stadium scoreboard displayed the aforementioned Felix Pie's name as "Felix π"! Sometimes it's the little things.
The Yankees look to avoid not only their first four-game losing streak of the season, but their first three-game sweep of the year. I know Baltimore's been playing much better of late and all that jazz, and Brian Matusz and Jake Arrieta are damn fine pitchers, but if the Yankees can't pummel Brad Bergesen that's a bit of a problem. Additionally, per Pete Caldera, the Yankees haven't been swept by Baltimore in a three-game set in the Bronx since June 6-8, 1986, so it'd be great to avoid that as well.