Orioles stop Masahiro Tanaka for 8-0 win over Yankees in series finale Sunday


June 22, 2014|By Dan Connolly | The Baltimore Sun

NEW YORK -- It may have started in gut-punching fashion, but the Orioles left the Bronx on Sunday night feeling like they had just accomplished something significant.

Not only did they dominate in Sunday’s rubber match with an 8-0 blowout of the New York Yankees, but they beat pitching sensation Masahiro Tanaka and captured the series even after losing Friday night on a walkoff homer in the ninth inning.

“It’s huge, especially with being a division game on the road,” Orioles designated hitter Steve Pearce said. “And especially with the resilience we showed with the first night losing in the late innings. And then we came back and win the next two. We battled together as a team.”

The most important development Sunday is that, with the win, the Orioles (39-35) have moved into a tie with the Yankees for second place in the American League East, 11/2 games behind the Toronto Blue Jays.

Sunday’s subplots, though, were perhaps more interesting.

For one, the Orioles became the first AL team to hand Tanaka (11-2) a loss this year — the Chicago Cubs did it May 20, snapping Tanaka’s personal 34-game winning streak between Japan and the majors.

The Orioles also became the first team to beat the Yankees twice this season in a game that Tanaka has pitched. New York has won 12 of Tanaka’s 15 starts.

“It’s good timing,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “Our guys did a good job of grinding, and he wasn’t carrying the same things that he’s usually armed with. We were fortunate not to catch a real good pitcher at the top of his game.”

Tanaka allowed three runs, six hi in seven innings on one walk and six hits, including a solo homer by rookie Jonathan Schoop.

Schoop, who entered Sunday batting just .150 in his previous 11 games, became the first major leaguer to homer twice against Tanaka when he hit a two-out solo shot in the second. That might sound familiar. Schoop’s first homer this season, on April 9, was in the second inning with no one on base and two outs. It, too, came on an elevated slider from Tanaka.

“It means a lot because he is the best pitcher there,” said Schoop, who has six homers this season. “And I got two off him and never imagined I would get two.”

Schoop, who also had an RBI groundout against Tanaka, didn’t even hit the most memorable homer of the afternoon.

That honor goes to fellow rookie Caleb Joseph, whose ninth-inning home run against David Huff was the first of his major league career.

“Really exciting. To do it in Yankee Stadium. Such a historic place,” said Joseph, a 28-year-old who spent seven seasons in the minors before his promotion in May. “More than hitting the home run, it’s taking two out of three against the Yankees and gaining some leverage. Winning in this atmosphere makes it even more sweet.”

As he was rounding the bases, Joseph knew that his teammates were going to give him the silent treatment in the dugout, as they have been doing lately after some other meaningful home runs. So Joseph ran into the dugout and straight out of sight.

“Ran into the tunnel and kind of hid for a few minutes until they called me back out,” Joseph said. “It was fun.”

The Orioles quietly were pumped for Joseph. Showalter said the dugout was intently watching whether the fan who caught the homer in the left-field stands would throw it back, so that Joseph could retain the souvenir for his own trophy case — they did.

Orioles starter Chris Tillman said he was watching Joseph’s swing on television.

“I was screaming like a little girl in the clubhouse, I was so happy for him,” Tillman said. “I’ve been playing with him for a while, so it’s awesome to see.”

Tillman (6-4) also was a huge part of Sunday’s win — allowing four hits and four walks in seven shutout innings. Since lasting just one inning while giving up five runs on June 5 in Texas, Tillman has yielded just four runs in his past 20 innings (1.80 ERA), spanning three straight quality starts. That’s a huge relief for a club that is counting on Tillman to be its No. 1 starter.

“It's coming, it's definitely coming,” Tillman said. “Still have a lot of baseball left, a lot of starts left, and you always want to improve every time. The second you get comfortable, they'll knock you right on your butt, so you've got to stay focused and got to keep working.”

The tone was set for Tillman to succeed after his first batter. Brett Gardner tripled to right field, but he slid off third base and was tagged by Manny Machado. Initially, Gardner was ruled safe, but Showalter challenged the call, which was reversed after a 2-minute, 38-second delay.

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