NEW YORK – Despite Baltimore Orioles Manager Buck Showalter’s best efforts to downplay the importance of this weekend’s series against the New York Yankees, this is by no means your ordinary September trip to the Bronx.
You could tell by the flock of reporters three rows deep buzzing around Showalter during his pregame talk in the visitor’s dugout of Yankee Stadium. You could tell by the back-page headlines in the New York tabloids.
Showalter did his best to temper any excitement. After the Orioles met for their advance meeting, something they do before the first game of every series, his words were simple.
“The last thing I told them,” Showalter said, “was, ‘Hey, have fun, let’s go.’ And they will. They don’t take themselves too seriously.”
And then Showalter put the ball in the hand of perhaps his most unassuming player.
Right-hander Miguel Gonzalez, signed to a minor league contract in late February after he was uncovered pitching in the Caribbean Series, baffled the Yankees bats, throwing seven scoreless innings in a 6-1 win over the Yankees in front of 43,352 at Yankee Stadium.
The win continued the second-place Orioles’ surge to the top of the AL East standings, cutting their margin to a mere two games. The Orioles (73-58) finished August with 18 wins, their highest win total in a month since winning 18 in September 2004.
The Orioles have also won five of their past six at Yankee Stadium and are within a win of winning all three series in the Bronx this season. They also improved a season-high 15 games over .500 for the first time since the end of the 1997 season.
The 28-year-old Gonzalez, who missed two full minor league seasons with knee and elbow injuries, had a hard time fighting for innings in minor league camp this spring. And of late, he was becoming pinched in the Orioles’ starting rotation.
He hadn’t pitched in 11 days, patiently waiting for his name to be plucked for his chance in the Orioles precision-patchwork rotation.
Friday, he put the Yankees (75-56) on the defensive, holding New York to four hits. He retired the first nine batters he faced.
— Baltimore Sun