To Kill an Oriolebird

Bronx, N.Y., April 28, 2017; Yankees 14, Baltimore 11 — Quick turnaround before we’re back at the Stadium, so it would be foolish to attempt a blow-by-blow description of what transpired in the Bronx Friday night. Suffice it to say the Yankees fell way behind, staged a furious comeback, and walked off with an unlikely win. Why much of a crowd reported to be about 37,000, but that seemed actually bigger, stuck around despite the Yankees being down 9-1 in the sixth, and 11-4 in the seventh, is anyone’s guess. The team is playing very well, it features a group of young stars (or stars-to-be), and it was not only a Friday night, but a perfect one for baseball in a city where the nights (and days) have been dreary for some time. If they stayed because it was date night, or for the weather, they got quite a bonus.

CC Sabathia, who is off to a good start, opposed Baltimore’s Kevin Gausman, who is not. CC allowed seven runs into the sixth; Kevin gave up just three hits and one run through five. Manny Machado, the O’s star third sacker who entered the game mired with a .205 batting average, battered Sabathia with three hits, a two-run double, and a monster home run off the restaurant in dead center field. Gausman, who probably deserved better, had a bete noire too, and if the amazing Aaron Judge hadn’t reached him for two home runs (numbers eight and nine on the young year), the O’s hard thrower would have left with a better line than five runs through six innings, and probably would have earned an elusive win. One thing the starters did share: The guys who initially relieved them had outings they would rather forget.

Righthander Bryan Mitchell, who had been pitching lights out, followed lefty CC in the sixth with a four-pitch walk and then a Mark Trumbo grand slam. He gave up four hits, a walk, and two more runs in the seventh, which created the 11-4 deficit mentioned. And southpaw Vidal Nuno, a one-time Yankee, came on for Gausman in the seventh after a leadoff Austin Romine infield single, then got one out while surrendering a double, a walk, and a Jacoby Ellsbury grand slam. At 11-8, not only the crowd knew that we had us a game, both dugouts knew it too.

Baltimore’s Mychal Givens escaped the seventh, just as pinstriped righty Jonathan Holder did, and submariner Darren O’Day, a Yankee nemesis whom they did get to a couple of weeks ago in Baltimore, pitched a one-two-three eighth, a result matched first by Holder, then by Tyler Clippard in the top of the ninth for the Yanks. Much has been made of the Yankees’ hot start in light of two of their brightest stars, Didi Gregorius and Gary Sanchez, being out for a month-plus. Part of the game, and the Yanks welcomed Didi to his first 2017 regular-season game this night — he did not disappoint, with two hits, an rbi, and a couple of great plays at short. But the Orioles are missing uber-closer Zach Britton, a shortcoming they, too, have succeeded in overcoming, at least until tonight. Setup man Brad Brach, who’s been subbing as closer, started the bottom of the ninth by walking Chase Headley, and Yankee DH Matt Holliday, who has been struggling mightily, singled off the wall in right center. A fielder’s choice grounder plated one, and then Starlin Castro homered on the first Brach pitch he saw for the 11-11 tie.

Though it’s rarely that clear and simple, it seemed the Orioles were in a quandary; they had used the best of their pen to get to this point, while the Yanks had answered with lesser arms, trying to hold the line. Closer Aroldis Chapman struck out two around an infield single off his hand in the top of the ninth. With Brach spent on a 30-pitch ninth, young lefty Jayson Aquino toed the visitor mound in the bottom half, and quickly walked two. He got some redemption by striking out Headley, but Holliday greeted his first pitch with a booming shot to right center that cleared the Yankee bullpen wall; the 14-11 comeback was complete.

An ignominious day in Yankee history, August 28 is the day George Steinbrenner replaced the beloved Yankee Yogi Berra as manager with Billy Martin (tour No. 4) in 1985, a deed made worse by the manner in which he carried it out: He had pitching coach Clyde King relay the news of his firing to Yogi. August 28 is also the day the first night game in organized baseball history was played, in Independence, Kansas, in 1930. Four years before that event, the recently deceased Harper Lee, author of the much beloved American novel To Kill a Mockingbird, was born.

On Friday night, an on-fire Yankee lineup did a great job of showing how …

To Kill an Oriolebird