BALTIMORE -- The "big hits" have been coveted by Orioles manager Buck Showalter and his staff almost since Adam Jones' Opening Day walk-off home run. It's certainly felt like some timely hits could have produced a few more wins in what has been a tough 2018 season for the O's.In
BALTIMORE -- The "big hits" have been coveted by Orioles manager Buck Showalter and his staff almost since Adam Jones' Opening Day walk-off home run. It's certainly felt like some timely hits could have produced a few more wins in what has been a tough 2018 season for the O's.
In Monday's 5-4 win over the Yankees in Game 1 of a doubleheader at Camden Yards, a familiar script looked to be playing out when Caleb Joseph grounded out to end a bases-loaded chance in the fourth inning -- the same frame in which the Orioles had already plated two runs on a Mark Trumbo homer to cut into a three-run deficit. But Danny Valencia came through with a go-ahead three-run homer in the sixth inning to end an 0-for-25 slump and give the O's that much-needed clutch knock.
With two on and none out, Valencia sent a 1-1 hanging slider from Carsten Sabathia -- the lefty's 99th and last pitch of the day -- a projected 415 feet to dead center, according to Statcast™. One of the big hits finally came, powering the Orioles to a win over the potent Yankees.
"We put a lot of pressure on ourselves. We have family that's always chirping in our ears, friends asking us what's wrong," Valencia said of his skid. " … It's obviously been weighing on me. I'd be lying if I said it didn't, but I'm happy today that that hit put our team ahead and we were able to win the game."
Jimmy Yacabonis was called up as the 26th man for the doubleheader to make his second career start -- and for his 2018 season, the moniker of 26th man describes him well. The righty has been called up three times for two relief appearances and one start.
Yacabonis showed promise in his first start June 28 against the Mariners (four innings of two-run ball), and the righty showcased more potential in Game 1 on Monday. The 26-year-old went five innings against the hampered yet dangerous Yankees lineup, executing well on almost every pitch outside of a fastball in a Giancarlo Stanton's power zone, which resulted in a solo homer for the game's first run. Yacabonis allowed six hits and three runs while striking out five over five innings.
"He gave us what we needed to stay in the game," Showalter said, "and we'll take that for what it is. He's making progress as a first-year starter."
Mike Wright Jr. took over in the sixth and allowed one run over two innings, but Mychal Givens struck out two in a 1-2-3 eighth inning and Zach Britton worked around a leadoff single to Miguel Andujar in the ninth for his second save, giving Baltimore a 4-3 lead in the season series against New York.
Outside of Britton, all three O's pitchers in Game 1 came up together through the club's Minor League system and were able to put together a win against one of baseball's best teams.
"It's awesome," Yacabonis said. "We all did well and we won. It's huge for us."
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
In the ninth, Andujar hit a leadoff single and moved to third after a groundout and a wild pitch from Britton. But the closer struck out Kyle Higashioka and retired Tyler Wade on a groundout to seal the win.
"Very quietly, little by little, he's getting there," Showalter said of Britton. "You could tell by his body language, he felt really good about his stuff. Caleb did a great job with him. You've got to have a really quality catching effort, especially in that situation. And to give Zach the confidence to throw that pitch."
HE SAID IT
"It's a little different. It's definitely teaching me how to pitch and become a better pitcher, developing my secondary pitches for sure. And kind of just keeping everything under control when things don't really go my way. I'm enjoying it. -- Yacabonis, on what he's learned as he makes Major League starts
Zachary Silver is a reporter for MLB.com based in Baltimore.