The New York Yankees have spent most of the summer learning how to win close games.
After winning another tight affair Friday, the Yankees seek their ninth straight home win Saturday afternoon when they host the Baltimore Orioles.
The Yankees (78-56) are 49-27 in games decided by two runs or fewer this season and have excelled in those games since the All-Star break. They are 22-8 in one- or two-run games since the break and 11-1 at home in those contests since an inconsistent first half.
“The one thing I would say is we’re comfortable in those spots,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “I do feel that way. No matter how tight the situation, how close the game is, win or lose, I know our guys aren’t going to melt, aren’t going to be fazed by anything.
“So that’s comforting, but that said we’d like to pull away every now and again. But it is nice that in these close games that our guys seem to play their best.”
The latest was a 4-3 thriller on Friday when Giancarlo Stanton hit what proved to be the game-winning single to start the 11th after DJ LeMahieu hit the game-tying single in the 10th. Stanton also homered and in his past 28 games the slugger is hitting .333 (34-for-102) with 10 homers and 27 RBIs, a stretch that is coinciding with him spending some time in right field instead of exclusively at designated hitter.
“He’s just locked on and focused and carrying out his plan really well right now,” Boone said.
Despite Stanton’s clutch hit helping the Yankees to their 15th win in 19 games since Aug. 12, they remained 6 1/2 games behind the first-place Tampa Bay Rays in the AL East and 1 1/2 games ahead of the Boston Red Sox in the race for the first wild-card spot.
With a 3-25 record in its past 28 games, Baltimore (41-92) is hoping it can at least play competitively and be an occasional spoiler to its opponents in playoff contention. The Orioles are 3-6 since losing 19 straight from Aug. 3-24 and took their third one-run loss since the skid on a night where their pitchers recorded 12 strikeouts and held the Yankees to six hits.
“I thought it was just a really good baseball game, and we lost on the road in extra innings on a ground ball single and I’m really happy with how we pitched,” Baltimore manager Brandon Hyde said. “For me it was just a good baseball game. It’s tough to win on the road in extra innings, and we didn’t score in the top of the 11th, which opened the door for them, and a ground ball single beat us.”
Trey Mancini and Jorge Mateo hit solo homers in the sixth and seventh before Ryan Mountcastle delivered a single that briefly gave Baltimore a 3-2 lead in the 10th.
Mancini, Mateo and Mountcastle are among Baltimore’s hottest hitters of late. Mancini is batting .320 (16-for-50) in his past 12 games, Mateo is hitting .321 since joining the Orioles on Aug. 6 and Mountcastle is batting .474 (9-for-19) in his past five games.
Jordan Montgomery (5-5, 3.52 ERA), who is unbeaten in his past six starts, takes the mound for the Yankees. Since losing four straight starts June 26-July 16, Montgomery is 2-0 with a 1.44 ERA and has allowed one run or less in five of those outings, including Sunday’s 3-1 loss at Oakland when he allowed an unearned run on six hits in six innings.
Montgomery is 3-1 with a 3.35 ERA in 10 career starts against Baltimore and was slated to face the Orioles last month before testing positive for COVID-19.
Chris Ellis (1-0, 3.09) will make his third career start and fifth career appearance. Ellis has a 4.70 ERA and a 1.04 WHIP since joining Baltimore on Aug. 21 and last pitched Monday in Toronto, where he allowed one run and two hits in 4 2/3 innings of a no-decision.
–Field Level Media