BRONX, NY — This is the American League East with the Major League leading Rays, Toronto Blue Jays, and Boston Red Sox. And there are the Baltimore Orioles three games behind the Rays.
Perhaps as those in baseball say, the AL East is a division to watch going into October. The Yankees with Aaron Judge, Rays with an array of talent, Red Sox with Rafael Devers, Blue Jays and Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
And then there are the Orioles, not to be bypassed. Manager Aaron Boone and the Yankees have already been in tight one-run games with the Rays and Blue Jays during their recent stretch of games with divisional opponents, aware this three-game series would be no different.
Once this division belonged to the Yankees and Red Sox. Then the Blue Jays improved, and the pesky Rays never went away. The Orioles the past few years were in that rebuilding mode and it was a matter of time before they were looked as serious contenders.
Tuesday night in the Bronx, it was no different. The Yankees continued to play to their script, another one-run game and walk-off 6-5 comeback win in the 10th inning. Aaron Judge tied the game in the 9th and Anthony Volpe walked it off in the 10th with a long sacrifice fly.
And if this trend continues the script with these two AL East teams will be the same two more nights in the Bronx. Though the Yankees have Aaron Judge and he can always make a difference, this time hitting a one-out Félix Bautista 0-2 splitter over the left field fence. The Orioles lost despite holding a lead heading into the ninth inning for the second time this year.
Absolutely Clutch.#AllRise pic.twitter.com/3uBQw9jEW0
— New York Yankees (@Yankees) May 24, 2023
This is expected from Judge, 14th home run and eighth in the last nine games. Not expected though, Bautista (Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic) missed with the location and blew his fourth save of the season.
Then again, not locating against Judge and there are consequences, Bautista knew the splitter was not low and outside, Judge got hold of a ball that went to the middle of the plate.
The American League East and the Orioles coming off a three-game sweep over the Blue Jays. The Yankees won their fifth straight series opener against an AL East rival, the fourth team to win 30 games, 8-7 in one-run games.
“We play so many close games, we’re bound to lose one once in a while that’s tight like that,”said Orioles manager Brandon Hyde.
The Orioles are 1-3 against the Yankees this season, remember, with a different and balanced schedule, division matchups will be less and every win is significant. There are possibilities three teams out of the division could be a part of the October postseason,
The Orioles, not known for starting strength in their rotation but with third best bullpen, (3.03) behind the Yankees (2.87) depend on Bautista to close the door, 11 of 14 saves with a 1.50 ERA,
This time, though, the 0-2 count to Judge called for his signature pitch. Judge, the reigning 2022 AL MVP, and coming off that AL record 62 home run season would not be denied.
“I think I did a good job of getting him in the hole pretty early on in that at-bat,” Bautista said through an interpreter. “Unfortunately that pitch that I threw that he hit out of the ballpark, I didn’t execute it well.”
So goes the AL East. The Bautista splitter, with a 58.8 percent whiff rate per statcast is tied for the ninth highest of any pitch in MLB this season. He was AL Reliever of the month for April second for an Orioles pitcher since the awards inception in 2005.
“Got a one-run lead going into the ninth, you take your chances with Bautista,” Hyde said. “That’s a really good team over there.”
Earlier, Yankees ace Gerrit Cole achieved his 2000th career strikeout in the second inning and was pulled after giving up back-to-back singles in the sixth. His five runs were the second most he allowed this season, but the Yankees improved to 15-5 in their last 20 games and moved 10 games above 500 for the first time.
But it’s these Yankees with Aaron Judge and why they should never be counted out in this competitive battle with AL East rivals. He is the difference maker and his manager will not hear otherwise.
“He’s the best player in the world right now and he continues to show you why all the time,” said Boone.
Rich Mancuso Co-Editor and Senior Writer LatinoSports.com Twitter@Ring786 Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso.
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