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NEW YORK, NY - JULY 18: Ivan Nova #47 of the New York Yankees leaves the game after the sixth inning against the Baltimore Orioles during their game at Yankee Stadium on July 18, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

Finally, success against the AL East: Yankees vs Orioles series recap

The Yankees welcomed the first place Orioles to town for a four game set after dropping two out of three to the Red Sox.  With the trade deadline looming, the time to put up or shut up is definitely now.  A lack of success against division opponents as well as teams with winning records has the Yankees languishing in fourth place and dancing on both sides of the .500 mark.

A Supernova sighting

Ivan Nova got the start in the opening game of the series and the combination of the way he has pitched of recent and the high power offense of the Orioles didn’t seem at first glance to be in the Yankees favor.  But, that is why the games are played.  Nova would pitch six innings of one run ball, giving up four hits and walking three, while striking out four.  The only ding against him came courtesy of a home run off the bat of Jonathan Schoop in the third inning.  Nova would put himself in regular trouble in the first few innings with command issues, but would manage to wiggle out each time.  Sometimes the hard hit balls find a glove instead of outfield grass.  Such is the way of the game.

The offense once again would put up just enough to get the job done.  Alex Rodriguez gave them an early lead with a solo home run in the second inning, his ninth of the season.  Carlos Beltran‘s RBI double in the bottom of the third would highlight a three hit performance for him.  0-for-5 with runners in scoring position was not enough to stop them on this night.  And just enough against the first place team that you are chasing is okay in my book.  The firm of Betances, Miller, and Chapman would lock the door on a 2-1 victory with three innings of shutout baseball.

So a win against the division leader to start a series and the Yankees are back to .500 for the season.  Oh, how many times we have seen this thus far.  A double digit winning streak would be just what the doctor ordered here, but the Yankees have been so inconsistent that may be a pipe dream.

A Nasty return

Nathan Eovaldi would make his return to the rotation in style on Tuesday night.  A string of poor performances led to his being used out of the bullpen leading up to the All-Star break.  Eovaldi used a cutter to put up 5.1 solid innings giving up 4 hits and 1 run and walking 2.  Even though he was more effective and efficient with his pitches, Joe Girardi pulled him before Eovaldi could pull his usual third time through the order blowup.

The offense was steady all the way through in this one.  Starlin Castro led the way with two hits and four RBIs.  Chase Headley added a home run and Didi also had two hits.  The mop up side of the bullpen was effective as well.  Anthony Swarzak and Nick Goody combined to pitch 3.2 innings of shutout baseball with 5 strikeouts.

All in all, solid back-to-back performances against a first place team.  You can’t ask for much more than that.  The Yankees are now once again one game above the .500 mark.  Will this be the time they keep improving on that and stay above .500, or will it be the same old story?

A whitewash for the series win

Thus far, the series against the Orioles has been one inconsistent player after another putting up solid performances.  That has been the struggle all season watching this club.  You know there are players capable of doing this on a nightly basis, but it just hasn’t happened.  Wednesday night was Michael Pineda‘s turn to shine.

Pineda has been all over the map this season with his pitching.  In this matchup with the Orioles however, he took care of business.  Pineda would pitch his first scoreless outing of the season, going 6 innings and giving up 5 hits and striking out 8.  Pineda had the slider working all night, generating a large percentage of swings and misses.  Every time he landed in trouble, the slider came to his rescue.  This has been the opposite of his season to this point as many of the strikeouts came with two outs.  He has had trouble finding that elusive last out of an inning this year.  Even though he pitched six shutout innings, it took Pineda 113 pitches to get through that stretch.  This was definitely a case of a deceptive line for him.

The offense strung together just enough to get the job done behind Pineda.  Mark Teixeira and Carlos Beltran hit solo home runs and the two combined for four of the Yankees five RBIs.  After Pineda’s exit starting the seventh, it appeared time for the back end of the bullpen to do its job.  Betances pitched the seventh, but after the Yankees added insurance runs, they went to Goody and Shreve to finish things off.  That marks consecutive solid appearances for Goody since his recall from Scranton.

With the 5-0 victory, the Yankees not only clinched a series win, but also moved two games above the .500 mark.  C.C. Sabathia will be on the mound as they go for the sweep and the back end of the bullpen will be rested if the opportunity presents itself.

Put your brooms away

The mid-day finale would see Sabathia fall behind quickly 2-0 in the first inning.  The combination of C.C. not being able to put batters away and the defense not quite able to make a couple of plays led to J.J. Hardy‘s two-run single.  The Yankees would threaten to do damage right away in the bottom of the first, but failed to score after have two runners on base two different times in the inning.  They would put up one run in the second on Castro’s single, but hitting into a pair of double plays early on cost them chances for more.

Sabathia was solid after the second inning and was sitting at 83 pitches after six innings and facing a 2-1 deficit.  With a fairly rested bullpen, Girardi stuck with the big lefty and it nearly paid off.  But, Schoop’s two-run double would give the Orioles the margin they would need and keep the heavy lifters in the bullpen seated for another day. Chad Green would pitch 2.1 innings in relief to finish the game which kind of seemed like a waste.  The Yankees would probably have been better served saving him for Friday’s start and push Masahiro Tanaka back a day to give him more rest.  Seems like a bit of unusual bullpen management if you ask me.

Chris Tillman would retire 16 of the final 17 batters he would face, getting a lot of weak contact in the process.  The O’s bullpen would do their job and salvage the final game of the series.  Overall, a good series for the Yankees.  They have had success the last three series against quality opponents, much to the chagrin of a large portion of the fanbase that are looking for the team to sell.  Another quality opponent comes to town for the weekend in the San Francisco Giants.  The Giants have stumbled a bit since the All-Star break, losing five in a row.  So maybe we are catching them at the right time.  It will be interesting to see if this lineup can generate anything against Madison Bumgarner on Friday night.