The Baltimore Orioles have become baseball’s patsies this season, entering Monday with a six-game losing streak and the worst record in the majors. And they are likely to get even worse if, or when, they deal their marquee talent — the impending free agent Manny Machado.
But, somehow, the Yankees seem to bring out the best in them.
So, when the Yankees pummeled the Orioles in the second game of a doubleheader on Monday night, 10-2, it was not so much a flexing of their considerable muscle as it was taking out the frustration from a 5-4 defeat earlier in the day.
The split left the Yankees a bit further adrift of the Boston Red Sox, who won their seventh in a row on Monday, pulling to two and one-half games ahead in the American League East.
And while the Yankees have shown their mettle against the other contenders in the American League — the defending champion Houston Astros, the A.L. Central-leading Cleveland Indians and the Red Sox — they have also won just four of eight games against the hapless Orioles. The Red Sox, in contrast, owe their lead in the division to having beaten Baltimore nine times in 10 games.
What has also set the Yankees slightly behind their rivals is their starting pitching, which General Manager Brian Cashman is trying to bolster behind his ace, Luis Severino. But in a trade market where the top available pitchers — Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard — are the property of the Mets, a team that may not want to trade across town, the Yankees may be looking at other options to help themselves.
The Athletic reported Monday night that the Yankees were interested in Machado, which may be a way for the Orioles to goose the bids of the Milwaukee Brewers, the St. Louis Cardinals and the Los Angeles Dodgers — or it may be that the Yankees believe the best way to fortify their pitching is to add yet another fearsome bat. Tim Naehring, the Yankees’ assistant general manager and Cashman’s most trusted evaluator who usually scouts opponents, was in attendance here on Monday night.
The man in the middle of this — Machado — was not in a reflective mood after the doubleheader.
“I don’t answer trade rumors, man,” Machado said. “You guys want to ask me about something, talk to me about the game, talk to me about something useful, not about rumors. I ain’t here to talk about rumors.”
Asked if he would consider moving back to third base from shortstop, where he has played this season — a move that would seem necessary for a move to the Bronx — Machado said: “I’m a shortstop. I play shortstop.”
Machado allowed that his mood was darkened by the beating the Orioles took in the second game. It was due in part to Luis Cessa, who was brilliant in his spot start in the late game, scattering three hits and three walks over six innings before the Yankees bats awakened in the eighth and ninth. It was Cessa’s best performance since blanking the Los Angeles Angels over six innings in his first career start, which came two years ago. The ended a streak of 13 consecutive starts without earning a victory.
Cessa’s reward, however, was a ticket back to Class AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre early Tuesday so the Yankees could activate Masahiro Tanaka. Cessa is not the only unhappy camper headed down: To make room on the roster for Cessa, infielder Brandon Drury, who the Yankees repeatedly insist is not a Class AAA player, was sent down again after the first game on Monday.
That game ended with Miguel Andujar, the rookie who has supplanted Drury, standing on third base, as the rookie Kyle Higashioka and the pinch-hitter Brett Gardner could not get him home against Orioles closer Zach Britton.
But that was hardly the most exasperating moment of the opener.
That came when C.C. Sabathia surrendered a three-run home run to Danny Valencia in the sixth inning, which stood up as the game-winner. Valencia had been hitless in his last 10 at-bats against Sabathia, and his home run ended an 0-for-25 slump.
It came on the last of Sabathia’s 99 pitches, just after he had walked Mark Trumbo and given up a hard-hit grounder to Jonathan Schoop that scooted past first baseman Neil Walker for a double to open the sixth.
Asked if he second-guessed himself for not calling on Jonathan Holder, who was warming up, Manager Aaron Boone said: “Not really. The success has been there. I’m confident he can make a pitch against Valencia there, and with Holder going, that’s going to be his last hitter. But no — we were comfortable that Valencia was going to be his last hitter.”
Sabathia, who had given up a two-run homer to Trumbo in the fourth after being staked to a 3-0 lead, said he became unnerved by the strike zone of home plate umpire John Tumpane, and Sabathia barked at Tumpane while walking off the field at the end of the fifth inning.
“I’ve been playing this game long enough to be able to clear my mind and make good pitches and not let what he’s calling affect my game, and today I did,” Sabathia said.
Pitcher Jonathan Loaisiga received a cortisone shot in his right throwing shoulder after receiving a diagnosis on Monday of inflammation by the team doctor Christopher Ahmad. Loaisiga, who missed most of 2016 and 2017 recovering from Tommy John surgery, will be examined again in two weeks, but Manager Aaron Boone said, “Structurally we feel good about him.” … Catcher Gary Sanchez, who has been out for two weeks with a groin injury, could rejoin the Yankees after the All-Star break.