Ruiz gives O's offense late spark with homer

April 7th, 2021

NEW YORK -- Before facing the Yankees in a three-game series, the Orioles were feeling good about themselves, and for a good reason. Baltimore was coming off a sweep of Boston in a three-game weekend set at Fenway Park.

The Orioles haven’t had such luck at Yankee Stadium as they lost to the Yankees on Tuesday night for the second straight game, this time by a score of 7-2. Before scoring in the ninth inning, the O’s had been held scoreless for 17 consecutive innings since scoring in the top of the ninth in Boston on Sunday.

“It has been tough for us the last two games,” Orioles third baseman Maikel Franco said. “We have to turn the page, be ready for tomorrow.”

Orioles manager Brandon Hyde had an explanation as to why his team had a tough time hitting the baseball, and his name is Gerrit Cole. The right-hander dominated, pitching seven shutout innings and striking out 13 batters.

The only time the Orioles had a chance to score against Cole was in the first inning. With a runner on third and one out, Anthony Santander hit a ground ball to first baseman Jay Bruce, who threw out Cedric Mullins at the plate on a close play.

"I thought Jay made a great play in the first to cut the momentum down there,” Cole said. “One run probably doesn't kill us, but it was nice to get out of there unscathed. I was a bit fortunate, and then I thought that we kept them off balance and made a lot of good pitches."

Baltimore collected three hits the rest of the game against Cole and had a runner in scoring position just once. The Orioles were swinging out of the strike zone too often. It didn’t help that they were chasing breaking balls from Cole.

“[Cole] is a really good pitcher,” Hyde said. “We had a tough time with him. … He had all his pitches working. He was throwing 99 at the top of the zone. He had a really good slider, curveball, changeup. He is an All-Star type of pitcher.

“We had something going in the first inning and ran out of contact. Besides that, we didn’t square many balls against him the rest of the night.”

After Cole left, base hits evaded the Orioles until Rio Ruiz stepped up to the plate and hit a two-run homer off left-hander Lucas Luetge in the top of the ninth with two outs. The Yankees nearly preserved their shutout on the previous play, when Ryan Mountcastle, who scored on Ruiz's homer, was called safe at first on a single. The Yanks challenged the ruling, but after review, the call was upheld.

The Orioles want to start feeling good about themselves, and Franco has a way for the team to get back on track.

“We have to stay positive. You never give up,” Franco said. “You just try to go out there and compete. Every at-bat is important. Every situation is important. You try to be 100 percent focused and don’t give your at-bat away. You keep fighting all day long, keep pushing and everything is going to be good.”