Leadoff walks can come back to bite a pitcher. Issuing four consecutive walks to start an inning will leave a much deeper gash.
Today’s game basically was decided in the top of the fifth inning, when Mike Wright walked Chase Headley, Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira to load the bases with no outs and Brian Matusz walked left-handed hitting Garrett Jones to force in a run.
Matusz struck out the next two batters, but John Ryan Murphy lined a two-run double to left field, the ball glancing off the glove of a diving Manny Machado, to break a 3-3 tie, and the Yankees held on for a 5-3 win before 36,343 at Camden Yards.
A six-game losing streak ended and the Orioles returned to the .500 mark for the 10th time this season. They’re discussing whether to bring up a fresh bullpen arm after Tyler Wilson worked 3 1/3 scoreless innings.
Wright was charged with five runs and six hits in four-plus innings, raising his ERA to 4.13 in five major league starts. He hasn’t worked past the fifth in his last three outings.
“I’ll say this about Mike, he gave up ... a swinging bunt, a blocked chalk. A broken bat. There was a double play ball that hit off his foot. The baseball gods weren’t too kind to Mike today,” said manager Buck Showalter.
“He’ll tell you that the command was a little bit off after that, but they did a good job like the Yankees always do of grinding pitchers and a lot of foul balls, then they put the ball in play and find the hole. You’d think a day like today you’d see some balls flying out of the ballpark. It’s not like they beat him around. Obviously, they hit a couple balls hard, too. But we didn’t mount much offensively.
“It’s a challenging day for everybody weather-wise. You have to do some things sometimes. The weather’s going to be a challenge, but we play this game in the summer. And Mike’s in good shape. He felt fine. He just couldn’t get the ball where he needed to get it. He had a couple extra days’ rest, so we knew physically he was fine. But I thought there was a better outing there to be had if he could have gotten a couple things go his way.”
Showalter stayed with Wright through 104 pitches before bringing in Matusz, who hadn’t pitched since May 31 due to his eight-game suspension.
“Where we are in the lineup, we have Brian there,” Showalter said. “We had three guys we weren’t going to pitch today, so when you look at where your options are, you’re trying to see if you can scare up a lead and get the ball to Zach (Britton). But I’m not going to pitch Zach multiple innings with only two days off. Each day it changes managing a bullpen and keeping your people healthy.
“Tyler was big for us today and hopefully we’ll reap the benefits of his outing today over, sometimes, the next week. His outing today makes other people better tomorrow. That was big.
“There are so many variables that go into everything. You’re trying to survive the long haul and you’re also trying to win that game. Things do change, too, when the score changes. Some things you’d like to stay away from, but if you have a chance to win a game you go for it. That’s why we were close on Mike Wright out of the ‘pen a couple times the last few days. Every inning changes your approach to it, depending on what the score is and who they have in the bullpen. You know (Dellin) Betances could throw two innings today, maybe three, so you know where the game is.”
The Yankees’ bullpen remains tough without injured left-hander Andrew Miller.
“You look at the numbers, you know, because of our lead the last few days they weren’t able to get those guys,” Showalter said. “The game changes because you’re managing that game, and your team needs managing in the long haul too. You’re trying to mesh those two things and that’s the challenge.”
Wilson was superb in his fourth major league appearance, allowing three hits, walking none and striking out Alex Rodriguez over his 3 1/3 scoreless innings. He threw 27 of his 39 pitches for strikes in the oppressive heat.
“Tyler is one of our best conditioned guys,” Showalter said. “Coming from Virginia, we know how hot it is down there in the summer. This game is played in the summer, though. I mean, that’s part of it.
“Brian, other than the walk, pitched pretty well. I felt like he would benefit from being down there. He had four days off, but I didn’t want to take him too long and lose him with a predominantly left-handed club coming here the next four days we’re playing. Philadelphia is more left-handed than they are. And Cleveland. That’s why you’ve got to look a team in advance when you’re doing your bullpen today. Where are the pieces going to fall in the next few days, too?”
Showalter talked about how the past six games have been a challenge despite the wins.
“Another big challenge ahead of us is Philadelphia,” he said. “We made some headway over the last few games. We’ve just got to keep grinding through it. If we’re on our feet, which we should be tomorrow, it will be because of Tyler Wilson. And Mike getting his way through what he did. We’re trying to eke out every possible inning.”
Discussions are continuing over the possible call-up of another pitcher.
“I haven’t had a chance to talk to Dan (Duquette) or Ned (Rice) yet, but we’ll look at it,” Showalter said. “What did he (Wilson) throw? Thirty-nine? Pretty efficient. But you don’t know how he responds to coming back.
“I was trying to stay away from (Brad) Brach today so we would have a long guy with the left-handed lineup we’re going to face. Trying to win today’s game and keep some powder dry. We don’t play every other day. The off-days go in a hurry.”
Showalter wasn’t judging Wright’s start too harshly.
“(Mark) Teixeira draws chalk down there,” he said. “His first couple innings I could see he was getting frustrated. He was making really good pitches and getting results they probably shouldn’t have. But we had some things go our way, too.
“I try to look at the reality of Mike’s outing. The walks hurt a little bit, but I think a lot of that, the day kind of got to him.”