A Brendan Ryan Bargain

Bronx, N.Y., July 21, 2015; Yankees 3, Orioles 2 — The Yanks took game one of a key three-game series with division rival Baltimore Tuesday night, but in retrospect the only easy things about the night were the minuscule rain delay in the second inning, and the way the back of the hometown pen closed out the 3-2 win. Nate Eovaldi held the O’s hitless until an Adam Jones 60-foot roller with two down in the fourth, more than two innings after the Yanks plated their second run with their fourth hit in the second inning.

With the Yanks up 2-0 with runners on second and third and no outs, Baltimore was able to exploit the weak end of the hometown order to keep it right there until they managed to scratch out two runs to tie it in their four-hit sixth. Eighth- and ninth-place hitters Didi Gregorius and Brendan Ryan failed in the second, and again following back-to-back one-out singles in the fourth. And others in the Yankee order also did not come through following hard Mark Teixeira doubles in the fifth and the seventh: They could not score Brett Gardner with the former because it hopped the bullpen wall, while the Yanks failed to capitalize on the latter even though it set up bases loaded and one out. For a game during which the home team led virtually all the way, it was an excruciating ride.

Eovaldi looked to have plenty in this one once his team scored two early. He struck out four through four frames, with just the Jones infield single, and removed his lone walk when he picked Manny Machado off first in the game’s first inning. But his game drifted after the fourth, as he toiled through a one-hit, two-walk fifth on 28 pitches. Then the O’s reached him for three hits and a run in the sixth, and he lost his chance for a win once Justin Wilson relieved him with two down and surrendered a J.J. Hardy rbi single.

It’s hard to figure where Nate’s game went wrong. Seven of the 16 strikes he got in the first three innings were called or swinging strikes, but at that point bat found ball — repeatedly. From the Machado grounder to third to start the top of the fourth until Eovaldi was removed with two down in the sixth, 27 of 32 strikes were the result of Baltimore bats striking his pitches. He continued to pound high heat; he utilized his curve and slider; but the O’s were suddenly no longer fooled.

And the four-hit sixth now had the division rivals tied, 2-2. Once Chris Young and Chase Headley, each coming off back-to-back hits, were retired to start the home sixth, fans looked to who would be coming up for the Orioles in the seventh, as Gregorius and Ryan were next in the Yankee order. And then the game of baseball made us all look foolish for the umpteenth time. Up against lefty Wei-Yin Chen, who had him flailing all night, Didi lined a single to center. And weak-hitting Ryan followed with a hit-just-hard-enough grounder inside the third base bag. A harder-hit shot would doubtless have hooked left, catching the jutting-out stands and caroming toward left fielder Travis Snider, but this ball rolled true, all the way until it hit the home run wall in left, and Gregorius was waved home and beat the relay, 3-2 Yanks.

Wilson allowed a single in the seventh, and Dellin Betances came on and struck out two to get it to the ninth, then closer Andrew Miller pitched a one-two-three frame, striking out Jonathan Schoop to end it. So now the Yanks take on Baltimore again on Wednesday, this time with Ivan Nova on the mound. It’s exciting as a fan to think in late July that the team is looking for a solid third starter come playoff time. We’ll see tomorrow how “Supernova” does in his latest audition. They need to continue to win series, and they can nail that down with a win.

Before the game, we had exchanged our behind-home-plate grandstand seats for “upgraded” seats on the main level in 214B, placing us just adjacent to outfield grass, behind Teixeira at first. Until the ninth, I chafed a bit about the relocation; I felt our seats above the fray gave us the better view. But when Nolan Reimold grounded to deep short with one down in the ninth, from our perch we could see Gregorius’s throw to first was short, and way off-line. The view of Tex’s play to snare that catch was “worth the price of admission,” all by itself.

A hard game to figure for those who play it, and those who root, baseball humbled us but good in this one. And Brendan Ryan’s game-winning hit showed us just how much we don’t know. It, too, was worth the price of admission. But I’m not going to pay for the ticket again.