For 24 hours, the New York Yankees had sole possession of third place in the American League East and were the only team in back of the American League Wild Card race.
With Andy Pettitte going for the Yankees on Sunday looking to complete the three-game sweep of the Baltimore Orioles and move a step closer to getting in better position in the playoff race, it should have been that easy. Especially since Pettitte was coming in 3-0 in his last three starts and was dominating on the mound again.
Pettitte was throwing up scoreless innings for the Yankees and for his fourth straight start, looked like a 31-year-old starter and not a 41-year-old.
The game remained scoreless until the bottom of the third inning when Alfonso Soriano's RBI single off Wei-Yen Chen broke the scoreless tie and gave the Yankees an early 1-0 lead.
In the fourth inning, the Yankees really made Chen work and drove his pitch count up and worked the bases loaded for Brett Gardner, who also walked to get an RBI and the Yankees went up 2-0. In the very next at-bat, Derek Jeter's RBI sac fly made it 3-0.
Pettitte continued to throw up zeroes, but after two consecutive bloop singles in the top of the seventh inning, Yankees manager Joe Girardi decided to go to the bullpen and take Pettitte out after 93 pitches for Shawn Kelley to face Matt Wieters; the same guy who Pettitte had struck out twice earlier in the game.
Wieters deposited a pitch from Kelley into left field for an RBI single, which then made the game 3-1. J.J. Hardy took a Kelley offering and sent it into the right field seats over Curtis Granderson's head for a three-run home run and the Orioles took a 4-3 lead and with two at-bats, undid Pettitte's great outing.
The final line score for Pettitte was six innings, allowing two runs on seven hits, walked none and struck out three in what should have been his 11th win of the season, but Kelley's poor outing prevented that.
Later in the inning, the Yankees bullpen allowed runners on first and second to get on, which then prompted Girardi to make an even worse decision to make; allowing Joba Chamberlain to pitch in a meaningful situation. Girardi wanted to see if his right-handed reliever could get a big out with runners on and no outs, but instead, Chamberlain allowed a three-run home run to Adam Jones over the center field wall that pushed the Orioles lead out to 7-3.
The Yankees bats couldn't get anything else done against the Orioles bullpen, who pitched five scoreless innings and went on to defeat the Yankees 7-3 in the final game of the three-game set at Yankee Stadium. Kevin Gausman got the win for Baltimore and improved to 2-3, while Kelley took the loss and his record dropped to 4-2.
With the loss, the Yankees drop to 72-64 on the season and also drop back into fourth place by a half-game in the American League East, while the Orioles go back into third place.
On Monday, the Yankees will look to extract some revenge for the sweep that the Chicago White Sox handed them just short of a month ago at US Cellular Field when the White Sox come into town for a three-game series. Phil Hughes (4-13, 4.91 ERA) will attempt to not screw things up too badly as he somehow gets another start for the Yankees, as he will take on Jose Quintana (7-4, 3.86 ERA.)
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