Yankees reliever Joba Chamberlain, right, blocks the plate… (Reuters photo )
NEW YORK — Jake Arrieta did everything that Chris Tillman couldn't do a night earlier. He threw strikes, made big pitches when he had to and wasn't overwhelmed by the moment or the opposition.
When the Orioles knocked around Phil Hughes and took a five-run lead by the fifth inning, it appeared that the young starter would be rewarded for his effort. But such assumptions should never be made when the Orioles are playing the New York Yankees, especially at Yankee Stadium.
Brought on to convert a one-run lead into a victory, Orioles closer Kevin Gregg allowed a game-tying home run on his first pitch of the ninth inning to Jorge Posada. Nick Swisher then won the game in the 10th with a one-out sacrifice fly off Michael Gonzalez that sent the Orioles trudging back to the dugout, burdened by a 6-5 loss in front of an announced 40,517 who had little to cheer about until the later innings.
"Whatever problems you have on a given night, a lot of people are glad that you got them," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "There's no self-pity. It's a tough, competitive place in the American League East. We got close and didn't close the door, and we move on to Cleveland. It's part of the job description, it's part of the equation. You win some that you probably shouldn't, and some others go the other way."
There were many things that made a difference in a 5-0 lead turning into a grueling loss, but the final frustrating sequence started with Gonzalez issuing a leadoff walk to Mark Teixeira to start the 10th inning. Alex Rodriguez doubled, putting runners on second and third with no outs.
Not wanting to load the bases and give the often control-challenged Gonzalez no margin for error, Showalter opted to pitch to Robinson Cano, and he lined out to shortstop Cesar Izturis for the first out. However, the next batter, Swisher, got enough of Gonzalez's inside fastball to drive it out to medium right field. Nick Markakis caught it, but his desperation throw was late and off line as the Orioles were swept in a series that was abbreviated to two games because of Tuesday's rainout.
"It's definitely disappointing," said Gonzalez (0-1), who was used in the 10th over Koji Uehara because Showalter wanted to make both Teixeira and Swisher bat right-handed and force the left-handed-hitting Cano into a matchup with a lefty pitcher. "We obviously wanted to show these guys that we can compete, we can contend with these guys and it's definitely disappointing from my standpoint. We were leading the game by five. But the good thing is its early in the year and we are going to go out there and keep competing."
The Orioles' fourth straight loss dropped them to 6-5 and out of first place in the AL East heading into a three-game weekend set against the surprising Cleveland Indians. Poor weather is predicted for much of the weekend at Progressive Field, but it certainly is a preferable destination for this team to Yankee Stadium. The Orioles are just 4-16 here since it opened in 2009 and just 7-26 against the Yankees in the past 33 matchups.
The Orioles got a homer and three RBIs from Markakis and drove a shaky Hughes from the game after 4 1/3 innings. However, they did next to nothing against veteran Bartolo Colon and were unable to scratch a run across after building a 5-0 lead in the fifth.
Their best chance came in the eighth when Yankees pitcher Joba Chamberlain blocked Felix Pie off the plate as he tried to score from third on a wild pitch with one out. Instead of sliding straight in and through the burly Chamberlain, Pie tried to avoid him and tag the plate with his hand, but he was tagged out on a good call by plate umpire Dana DeMuth.
"He got me," said Pie, who pinch ran for Luke Scott and went from first to third on Adam Jones' one-out single. "Yeah, he blocked me. I think I'm safe, but I saw the replay. Good call by the umpire."
That insurance run loomed large when Posada launched Gregg's first pitch just over the wall and into the Yankees' bullpen. It was Gregg's first blown save in two opportunities, and it cost Arrieta his third victory over the Yankees in as many tries.
"I basically got ambushed [and] didn't make a good pitch," Gregg said. "I think at this point Posada has to do a lot of things right to hit a ball like that, and he did. I was able to come back and not let them get away that inning, but it basically cost us the game."
Arrieta, who has a 3.93 ERA in three career starts against the Yankees, didn't allow his first hit until Rodriguez's leadoff double in the fifth inning. The Yankees' first run came when the next batter, Cano, followed with a double. But Arrieta retired the next three Yankees to limit the damage to one run.