Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images
An examination of how one team can so thoroughly trounce another.
There is no mercy rule in professional baseball. The Yankees have reminded the Orioles of this reality all season long. The division rivals (at least nominally) completed their season series yesterday, and the results couldn’t be more lopsided:
- Yankees win 17 of 19 games
- Yankees hit 61 home runs, an MLB record by one team against one opponent
- Yankees outscored the Orioles 151-83
- Gleyber Torres slugged 13 home runs against the Orioles all by himself, and Gary Sánchez hit ten
- Orioles announcer Gary Thorne became broken
All 13 Gleyber Torres homers against the Orioles this year!
Gary Thorne getting more depressed after each one is the best part pic.twitter.com/rnn4D2yl77
— Kyle ⚾️ (@KyleNYY) August 13, 2019
For Baltimore, this season series was not so much a necessity of scheduling as it was a punishment for heinous misdeeds in past lifetimes. It’s obvious that the Yankees are a very good team and the Orioles are quite awful, but this was repeated unrepentant humiliation. Watching these games was like witnessing a parent give a small child a public spanking. It was uncomfortable and scary. You’re not sure if you should intervene, but if you wanted to, you wouldn’t even know how.
Sadism is part of the baseball fan experience. Whenever we revel in triumph, the other side is in agony. It’s an inherent aspect of competition. The purpose of this article is to embrace our sadism in its most distilled form: by recapping the biggest moments of the 2019 Yankees vs. Orioles season series.
The Yankees and Orioles first met on theoretically even footing. They kicked off the 2019 season against each other in New York on March 28. New York won on Opening Day, 7-2. Luke Voit and Greg Bird hit long home runs. In the bottom of the first, Giancarlo Stanton (remember him?) singled thusly:
The exit velocity on this hit was 120.6 mph. To date, this is the hardest a ball has been struck by any major league hitter all season. What are the odds that it happened in the first inning on Opening Day?
Believe it or not, the Orioles won the next two games, 5-3 and 7-5, before any of us suspected the ball was juiced. The Orioles hit their first three home runs of the season in the third game. The Yankees enjoyed dingers from Gary Sánchez and Troy Tulowitzki. It would prove to be the last of Tulo’s career.
In many ways, this was the pinnacle of the Orioles’ season. Even though they would win their next two games against the Blue Jays to achieve a record of 4-1, winning this first series against the Yankees has to be considered their peak accomplishment. That may be revisionist history— biased by the lens of what was to come. Regardless, this was as good as it would get.
When they met again in Baltimore just a few days later, the Orioles’ train began to derail. In an 8-4 Yankee victory, Gleyber Torres went 4-4 with a pair of home runs. Mike Wright entered in the sixth inning with a 4-2 lead, then gave up a single, single, home run, and single before getting pulled.
On April 5, the Orioles led 4-3 going into the eighth inning, despite two long balls from Aaron Judge. With two runners on base, Clint Frazier played the hero:
The final game of the set was a complete rout for the Yankees, 15-3. In retrospect, this game may have been an indication that the baseball wasn’t quite right. New York slugged seven home runs, including three from Sánchez and two more from Frazier. Even Austin Romine hit one out!
In these three games New York went deep 14 times. Four players had multi-homer games. At the time, a Baltimore fan might have thought this would be their worst series of the year. It was not.
Scheduled games on May 13 and 14 were rained out, so they played two on May 15. These were rather subdued affairs by Yankees-Orioles standards. New York took the early game 5-3. Despite the relatively low scoring, the Yankees smashed four home runs— two by Gleyber.
The second game was a legitimate pitcher’s duel, with Domingo Germán allowing one run over seven innings. New York triumphed, 3-1. Gleyber hit his third home run of the day in the fourth inning. The doubleheader sweep propelled the Yankees to 26-16, while the Orioles dropped to 14-28.
On the bright side for Baltimore, this would be the last time they would face the Yankees until August. Unfortunately, it was a four game set. Gleyber Torres hit two more homers in the first game, but the Orioles led 7-6 in the ninth inning. Closer Mychal Givens allowed a few singles and a sac fly to tie the game, then after a walk, Gary Sánchez ended discussion of extra innings:
The three-run blast increased their win probability by 46 percent. 10-7 was the final score.
Sánchez hit another three-run bomb in his next plate appearance: the first inning of the following day’s game. Clint Frazier hit two more home runs, and the Yankees won easily, 11-4.
On May 22, the Yankees hit five more home runs (I swear I’m not making this up), including two more from Gleyber (seriously) and another from Sánchez. Both bullpens actually prevented any scoring after the fifth inning, preserving a 7-5 Yankee victory.
The next day, Jonathan Holder and Tommy Kahnle melted down in the eighth inning, allowing four runs and squandering a 5-1 lead. However, Givens walked three batters in the ninth— including Aaron Hicks with the bases loaded— and the Yankees won, 6-5.
At this point, the Yankees led the season series, 10-2, despite dropping the opening series. Torres had ten home runs (including four multi-homer games) and Sánchez contributed nine.
It would get worse still.
Gary Sánchez was injured for this series, so he could do no further damage. Gleyber Torres finally cooled off as well, going 0-5 in the first game. The Yankees still pounded five home runs— two from Mike Tauchman— and toasted a 9-6 win.
New York put up another nine runs in the second match, even though Gleyber went 0-2 and left early with an injury. Six different players went deep, including Austin Romine who also added two doubles. The final score was 9-4.
With neither Torres nor Sánchez in the lineup, one might thing the Yankee offense would be somewhat tempered. Nope! They blasted 14 runs on 15 hits, including five dingers. Gio Urshela and someone named Kyle Higashioka both went deep twice.
If you’re counting along, the Yankees smoked 32 runs in the three game series. That’s an average of 1.2 runs per inning. They also crushed 16 home runs over the three games. 16 in three games! This may be the most 2019-ish series of the year across all of MLB.
On August 12, Gio Urshela, who was cast aside by the Indians and Blue Jays for lack of offense, sent a pitched baseball 461 feet.
Urshela has been a revelation this season, and not just against the Orioles, but he wouldn’t make anyone’s short list of players who could hit a ball this far. Didi Gregorius, Cameron Maybin, and Torres (of course) also homered in an 8-5 win that was never that close.
The following day, New York withstood another late comeback to win, 11-8. They only slugged three long balls in the game. You’ll be shocked to learn that Gleyber hit two of them.
DJ LeMahieu went deep on the very first pitch in the bottom of the first on August 13, but no other Yankees would homer that day. They still amassed eight runs on 15 hits, winning 8-3.
In the final, merciful end to the season series, Sánchez went 3-3 with a home run— his tenth against the Orioles on the year. The Yankees squeaked out a 6-5 win for their 16th straight victory against Baltimore.
Last offseason, Chris Davis infamously carried a long 0-fer streak into the winter. It would become the longest hitless streak in MLB history. This year, the Orioles will have similar questions about their losing streak against the Yankees. It’s a blessing that they won’t have to face them anymore, but a curse as well. As long as Gleyber Torres and Gary Sánchez are in the Yankees lineup, maybe some time away is for the best.
Daniel R. Epstein is an elementary special education teacher and president of the Somerset County Education Association. Tweets @depstein1983.