The Orioles flipped the script Wednesday night at Yankee Stadium with their comeback 9-6 win in the Bronx. The Yankees could not duplicate their comeback of the night before. There wasn’t a game-tying home run from Aaron Judge, instead the Yankees bullpen ended a 22-⅓ inning scoreless streak.
And Felix Bautista closed the door for the Orioles, different from the night before. Tuesday evening at Yankee Stadium, it was Judge getting hold of a splitter and hitting the dramatic 9th inning home run.
Welcome to the American League East and a division that most baseball experts say will be decided in late September, or the final games in October. It’s not just the Yankees and the no longer rebuilding Orioles.
The Yankees know this is a division that also features the Rays and Blue Jays. And the Red Sox are on the agenda soon, so welcome to possibly the best division in baseball. The Orioles, too, will contend to the end.
Six straight Orioles reached base in the top of the 7th. Jimmy Cordero was welcomed to a career high four runs out of the pen, Gunnar Henderson with a pinch hit two-run double off the bench began the Orioles comeback as they took a 6-5 lead after trailing 5-1 entering the inning.
An eight-run inning for the Orioles, 12 batters coming to the plate. Second most runs in an inning allowed by the Yankees this season. Yes, welcome to what has become a typical AL East division ballgame, one the Yankees have been accustomed to knowing the past few weeks, though not the tight one-run, come from behind games they recently experienced in the Bronx with the first place Rays.
The Yankees, though, are always under the belief they can comeback, perhaps that means something because of these division games that are important and a balanced schedule that now has less games against their division opponents.
“I still thought we were going to come back,” Kiner-Falefa said. “It’s a good feeling on this team, even though we were down late. I never felt out of the game,”
And the Orioles have had their share of comeback games with 19 of their 32 wins in come from behind fashion, good for first in MLB, except the tables turned on the Yankees this time. Could be another one like this Thursday night with the finale of this three-game series.
There could be many more comebacks in this division with the Yankees, Orioles, Rays, Blue Jays, and Red Sox. Bullpens will surely have an impact on the outcomes, just ask Yankees manager Aaron Boone and Orioles manager Brandon Hyde.
“He’s been really good for us, and obviously tonight was not his night,” Boone said about Cordero.
Hyde said Tuesday night about his closer and the splitter that missed, resulting in the Yankees 6-5 walk-off and come from behind win, “We play so many close games, we’re bound to lose one once in a while that’s tight like that.”
But the Orioles bullpen won this outcome with one run in four innings, getting Anthony Rizzo to leave the bases loaded in the seventh.
The Orioles, not known for starting strength in their rotation but with the third best bullpen era, (3.03) behind the Yankees (2.87) and depend on Bautista to close the door, 12 saves in 14 opportunities with a 1.50 ERA,
“They’re a good ballclub,” said starter Nestor Cortes who lost control in the seventh inning, the key being a three run Adam Frazier home run off the right field foul pole that spurred the Orioles comeback.
“It happened quick,” he said. “Our bullpen has been incredible, so to see that is a little odd, but it’s going to happen. I felt really good about our bullpen coming in and shutting it down. It didn’t happen today, so you’ve got to live with it and come back tomorrow to fight again.”
Cortes also alluded to the Orioles and Yankees having this type of battle all season. Boone and the Yankees had similar thoughts about their previous battles with the Rays and Blue Jays.
So this is what makes the AL East special, all teams that should be in the mix for that coveted spot to play postseason baseball in October.
“Fact we find ways to win think it’s been a lot of fun,” said Orioles catcher James McCann, once across town with the Mets and familiar with a NL East division battle involving the Braves and Phillies.
A fastball that Frazier hit can make a difference. Or the splitter that Judge hit off Bautista Tuesday night. Welcome to the American League East. The Yankees with Aaron Judge, Rays with an array of talent, Red Sox with Rafael Devers, Blue Jays and Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
The Orioles arrived in the Bronx Tuesday off a three-game sweep over the Blue Jays and the Yankees won their fifth straight series opener against an AL East rival. The Yankees five-game winning streak was snapped and the Orioles look to build another.
This is the AL East. Not too many will debate the best division in baseball and much more of this to come.
Rich Mancuso: Twitter@Ring786 Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso