NEW YORK -- The Yankees have not been held hitless in a game since June 11, 2003, when six Astros combined to shut down New York’s vaunted offense at the original Yankee Stadium. A late infield single on Saturday afternoon helped spare them from that same indignity, then Joey Gallo reached the right-field seats for a much-needed confidence boost.
Gallo snapped an 0-for-17 skid with a game-tying two-run homer in the eighth inning, but Aroldis Chapman wobbled before surrendering a Pedro Severino sacrifice fly and the Yankees were unable to respond in their final turn at bat, accepting a tough-to-swallow 4-3 loss to the Orioles at Yankee Stadium.
“Definitely some bad moments,” Chapman said through an interpreter. “Just fighting, you know -- fighting to be able to overcome those bad moments. The goal is to keep improving every day, and that’s what I focus on. I focus on the work.”
It has been a year of mixed results for Chapman, an All-Star this season who ranks third in the American League with 25 saves yet has twice recently been pulled from appearances.
On advice from pitching coach Matt Blake, Chapman recently tweaked his delivery, standing more upright on the mound. The early returns had been encouraging, but Ryan Mountcastle reached on a strikeout/wild pitch and came around to score as Chapman couldn’t wriggle free from a bases-loaded, no-outs jam.
“Before today, I thought his previous two outings [against the Angels and Orioles] were not only strong, but really efficient as well,” manager Aaron Boone said. “Today when it started to get a little wobbly there, I felt like he was able to corral it, and that’s important moving forward as well.”
While Chapman’s stumbles could prompt concern for a team that has seen him surrender crushing home runs in its season-ending games each of the past two years, the focus for Saturday’s loss rests squarely on the offense, which has largely scuffled against the Orioles’ league-worst pitching staff (5.78 ERA) through the first two games of this series.
Twenty-five New York batters were held hitless until Gleyber Torres delivered a pinch-hit, seventh-inning RBI single, one kicked around by second baseman Jahmai Jones. An inning later, DJ LeMahieu reached on a dribbler before Gallo launched a 375-foot drive to right field, the slugger’s 31st homer of the year and his sixth with the Yankees.
“That was pretty big for me individually,” said Gallo, who is slashing .138/.296/.345 in 33 games since being acquired from the Rangers. “Things obviously haven’t been going great for me, but it’s part of the game to learn how to deal with that and keep pushing every day. It was good to get a result in a big situation today. Hopefully I can build off that.”
For the birds
Baltimore rookie Chris Ellis held the Yanks hitless through five innings, navigating around several well-hit balls with high expected batting averages (xBA). Gallo, Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Andrew Velazquez all connected on balls that carried xBAs of .800 or better off Ellis, who struck out two in a 92-pitch effort.
“Even though the Orioles are not considered a great team, they’re a big league team,” Gallo said. “They have good arms; they can swing it. It just happens. Over the course of 162 [games], you’re going to play really, really good for two weeks, and sometimes it’s not going to go your way for a few games.”
New York had four baserunners against Ellis -- three walks and Judge’s first-inning liner that was flubbed by left fielder Ryan McKenna for an error. Boone noted that the play could have been scored a double for Judge.
“I thought in the first and second innings, we had some opportunities there,” Boone said. “We had a couple of balls that we hit to the fence. I thought we had some decent at-bats against [Ellis], but just not creating enough traffic against him.”
Jordan Montgomery continued his season-long drought, enduring his Major League-leading seventh start of four or more innings with zero run support, according to the YES Network.
Trey Mancini scored on a fourth-inning wild pitch thrown by Montgomery, who scattered six hits over 4 2/3 innings. Montgomery has allowed three runs or fewer in each of his past 12 starts (since June 20), posting a 2.66 ERA with 62 strikeouts over that span.
“I wasn’t very good today,” Montgomery said. “I was behind in a lot of counts, but I grinded and limited damage the best I could.”
The Orioles added two runs in the seventh. Jones and Cedric Mullins opened the inning with back-to-back doubles off Wandy Peralta. After a dazzling defensive play at shortstop by Velazquez, Peralta surrendered a run-scoring single to Austin Hays on a tapper back in front of the mound that Peralta flipped too late to nab Mullins.
“Look, these games are super important,” Boone said. “And we’re trying to win them. We got held down today, so that’s frustrating and unfortunate. We’ve got a big one tomorrow that we’ve got to grab.”