NEW YORK — Miguel Gonzalez spent two full years out of the game, one with a torn miniscus in his knee and the other recovering from Tommy John surgery. When the Orioles signed him to a minor-league deal in late February, the Angels and Red Sox had already given up on him.
And on Friday night – in the middle of a pennant race – the 28-year-old right-hander put the Baltimore Orioles within two games of the AL East lead with seven shutout innings against the Yankees.
Gonzalez allowed just one baserunner through five innings (Derek Jeter’s fourth-inning single). He didn’t throw a three-ball count until his second batter into the sixth inning.
"Unbelievable,” said Orioles first baseman Mark Reynolds. “[He] threw strikes all night. Guys who throw strikes, it's a lot more fun to play defense behind. Keep you on your toes. Some quick innings, get you back into the dugout. He didn't make many mistakes."
In two starts here at Yankee Stadium, Gonzalez has 17 strikeouts and just one walk against the Yankees, numbers that surprised even Orioles pitching coach Rick Adair.
“I didn’t know that,” Adair said when presented with that stat. “I knew he had a good night tonight and that the last time here he pitched well. I don’t know. I think Gonzo is a guy who really stays in the moment. He knows where he’d been. He knows what he’s been through in his career and he’s a guy who is going to attack no matter where he is. He’s a very fearless competitor. We’re glad to have him.
Earlier this week, Gonzalez shrugged when asked when he would get his next start. He hadn’t pitched since August 20 and was available for long-relief duty in the first two games against the White Sox.
He didn’t seem rattled. He wasn’t upset.
“It just makes you better,” he said of the uncertainty, very matter of factly.
And Friday night’s game was more than your average series opener. It was a tone-setter. The Orioles have won five of seven games here at Yankee Stadium this year, including five of their last six.
But as Orioles manager Buck Showalter has said on many occasions, these O’s have nothing to lose. And Gonzalez is the poster boy for that theory.
“I think he's a guy that's just letting it fly and trusting himself,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “He doesn't have anything to lose. Heck, he's had a lot of people in his career tell him that he couldn't do something and I think he knows he's in a place where people get him and know what he brings."