CC Sabathia fielded a comebacker in the fifth inning today, threw to second base to start a double play and raised both arms triumphantly as it unfolded. He kept them in the air while the ball began its journey around the infield. The image of a heavyweight who had just delivered the knockout punch.
The Orioles are in a much lower class in 2018, but they struck the hardest blow an inning later, sending Sabathia - arms now at his side - to the visiting clubhouse.
Danny Valencia broke an 0-for-25 slump with a three-run homer to center field, providing a lead that the bullpen held for a 5-4 victory over the Yankees in Game 1 of a doubleheader at Camden Yards.
Mark Trumbo led off the inning with a walk and Jonathan Schoop was credited with a double on a sharp ground ball that first baseman Neil Walker couldn’t backhand. Valencia followed with a shot estimated at 415 feet for his first hit since June 27.
Zach Britton recorded his second save, the other coming on June 23, after pinch-hitter Miguel Andújar’s leadoff single and a wild pitch. He didn’t have an opportunity since June 27.
The Orioles head into the nightcap with another rookie on the mound, Yefry Ramírez, but no longer toting a seven-game losing streak. They’re 25-65 overall and won at home for only the third time in their last 20 games.
Making his second major league start, Jimmy Yacabonis allowed three runs and six hits in five innings with one walk and five strikeouts. He was in line for the loss until Valencia’s bat awakened.
Valencia homered in back-to-back games on June 26-27 and didn’t have another hit until tonight. He grounded out and walked before stepping to the plate in the sixth.
A 10-pitch third inning for Yacabonis had the feel of a much longer stay on the mound. Not an eternity, but the kind that makes you check your watch.
It could have been the leadoff double or the single that followed. Not the 3-2-5 putout that netted two outs and almost took Yacabonis off the hook.
The back-to-back RBI singles weren’t the culprits, since both at-bats lasted only two pitches while inflating the lead to three runs and putting the Orioles in a game of catchup that they normally aren’t equipped to play.
Yacabonis was pulled after 71 pitches as the Orioles ease his transition to starter. In his two major league opportunities out of the rotation, he’s allowed five runs and 12 hits in nine innings but walked only two batters and struck out 10.
Trumbo hit a two-run homer off Sabathia in the fourth inning after Manny Machado’s one-out double to reduce the lead to 3-2. Schoop’s single - he also doubled twice and has 13 hits in his last seven games - and two walks loaded the bases with two outs.
Manager Buck Showalter has lamented the club’s inability to produce a big hit in these situations, whether to provide tack-on runs or to take a lead. Caleb Joseph worked the count to 3-1, fouled off a pitch and grounded out.
Valencia would reward Showalter later in the game.
Sabathia was forced to throw 31 pitches in the fourth to increase his total to 72, but he still held a lead. And he started a 1-4-3 double play in the fifth after Tim Beckham reached on an infield hit, which caused his arms to reach for the sky.
Giancarlo Stanton led off the second inning with a home run off Yacabonis. The Yankees hastily built on the lead in the third, with Aaron Judge and Didi Gregorius collecting run-scoring singles on the first pitches delivered to them. Judge had moved up to second base on the throw home.
Kyle Higashioka led off with a double and took third on Tyler Wade’s single, hefty production from the bottom of a makeshift lineup. Aaron Hicks grounded to Trey Mancini, who stepped on first base, threw home and started a rundown, but the two singles ruined Yacabonis’ escape act.
He executed one in the fifth inning, stranding two runners by striking out Judge and retiring Gregorius on a pop up. Yacabonis drew a deep breath, tugged on his belt - he had 72 pitches under it through the fifth - and walked back to the dugout.
Mike Wright Jr. was warming, sat down and entered in the sixth. Neil Walker’s RBI single increased the lead to 4-2, but Wright picked up the win after retiring five in a row with four strikeouts.
His velocity no longer missing, Wright struck out Judge on a 98 mph fastball to close out the seventh. His ERA is down to 4.91, its lowest point of the season.
Mychal Givens retired the side in order with two strikeouts in the eighth. Andújar reached third base against Britton with one out in the ninth, Schoop ranging up the middle to field Brandon Drury’s bouncer and throw across his body for the out while preventing the tying run from scoring. Britton struck out Higashioka and retired pinch-hitter Brett Gardner on a bouncer to Mancini, and the Orioles got the rare chance to form the congratulatory handshake line.
Notes: Schoop registered his first three-hit game since going back-to-back on April 3-4.
Left-hander DL Hall, the Orioles’ first-round pick in 2017, was named the South Atlantic League’s Pitcher of the Week after tossing 5 2/3 hitless innings in Thursday’s game against Hagerstown. He struck out a career-high seven batters.