A soldout Yankee Stadium wanted to witness history. The Orioles wanted to survive. By early Saturday morning, neither had their wish granted.
Baltimore’s 2-1 win Friday night over the New York Yankees shook off a late-season spell that doomed playoff hopes for a team that wasn’t expected to be in the position for them in the first place. The victory closed the Orioles’ September at 12-15, but wins by the Tampa Bay Rays and Seattle Mariners later in the night mathematically eliminated Baltimore. Their postseason possibilities lasted about half an hour into October.
The Orioles at least upset Yankees fans in the process. Amid a chorus of boos in the Bronx, Félix Bautista lunged behind the pitcher’s mound. Those 47,583 fans came to see Yankees slugger Aaron Judge make American League history, but in those moments, they watched the massive Orioles right-hander try to shake discomfort in his left knee suffered amid a plate appearance that at the time seemed it would control Baltimore’s postseason fate.
With first base open, Judge and his 61 home runs in the box and the tying run at second base in the eighth, Bautista tried to pitch around the New York Yankees slugger after a meeting on the mound with manager Brandon Hyde. But Bautista stumbled after delivering his second pitch to Judge, prompting a brief delay and a chorus of outrage.
“It feels cool, actually,” Bautista said through team interpreter Brandon Quinones. “But to be honest, I wasn’t focused on that.”
Like all those in attendance Friday, his focus was on Judge, one home run from breaking a tie with former Yankee Roger Maris for the American League record. But the Orioles left those fans wanting for another night. Bautista returned to the mound and intentionally walked Judge before retiring the next two batters, stranding Judge and the runner he inherited from Jordan Lyles after his strong seven innings. With Baltimore electing not to send its closer out for the ninth, rookie left-hander DL Hall instead handled the frame, doing so cleanly to earn his first career save in a victory that, if only temporarily, kept the Orioles’ postseason hopes alive.
Hyde seemingly was asking Bautista, also a rookie, for six outs, something Hyde said he hoped to avoid over the final stretch after Bautista developed arm fatigue after his previous two-inning outing. But with the Orioles needing to win each of their final six games to have a chance to reach the playoffs, Hyde called on Bautista after Lyles gave up a leadoff single on his 106th pitch.
A stolen base amid a strikeout brought up Judge, who had struck out, singled and walked against Lyles. Hyde came out for a mound visit, with the Orioles’ infield joining him around Bautista. After those pitches and brief delay for Bautista to stretch and throw a handful of warmup pitches, he threw another ball to Judge. At 3-0, the Orioles intentionally walked him.
The leg did not seem to bother Bautista further in the outing. He struck out Gleyber Torres, who himself had a historic home run binge against the Orioles in 2019, and got a lineout from Anthony Rizzo, who homered three times against Baltimore earlier this season. But he did not return for the ninth, though he said he could have and did not expect the issue to end his season.
Instead, Hall used his changeup with great effectiveness to retire three right-handed batters. The organization’s No. 4 prospect according to Baseball America, he had some struggles early in his major league career but has been scored on in only one of his past seven outings. He was greeted in the Orioles’ clubhouse with a laundry cart shower, with teammates dumping random substances on him in the team’s customary form of celebration.
“That’s the pitcher that everyone knows he can be,” said Adley Rutschman, who caught Hall frequently during their minor league climbs. “It was cool to see him just go out there, no fear, just a lot of confidence and swag in the way that he carried himself.”
Recognizing that was the priority over another accomplishment Friday. The victory ensured the Orioles (81-76) their first non-losing season since 2016. They are the third team and first since 1900 to achieve a .500 record or better a year after losing 110 games.
“It just means that we exceeded expectations and that our guys fought all year long and we’re not done yet,” Hyde said. “Just really happy with the effort with these guys all year. Proven a lot of people wrong around the league and in sports. I think there’s a lot of appreciation for what these guys have done this year around the league, and it’s well deserved.”
They scored in the first inning on Ryan Mountcastle’s single and in the sixth on a wild pitch from former Orioles closer Zack Britton, who immediately left the game with left arm fatigue. Oswaldo Cabrera’s solo shot in the fifth was Lyles’ lone blemish as he struck out a season-high nine in seven innings.
Lyles was unsure whether he would get another start, with his next turn due to fall on the final day of the regular season. He is one inning shy of a his career high of 180 innings, set last season with the Texas Rangers.
“I would like to rack up some more,” he said.
He avoided infamy against Judge, each ball he threw prompting boos. Although Judge’s walk rate has spiked since he came within reach of Maris’ mark, Lyles quipped that he was “trying to make it out of the Bronx alive,” not walk the game’s top hitter. Like Bautista, he savored the atmosphere in the ballpark, but he was happy he didn’t add to it.
“A win’s a win,” Lyles said. “I know Yankee fans were looking for something else, but we’ve got a young and talented team, and we care about winning.”
They just didn’t do enough of it to reach the postseason.
Saturday, 1:05 p.m.
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