BALTIMORE – Should they be satisfied with a split against the New York Yankees in the most significant four-game series played at Camden Yards in more than 15 years? Should they be upset that yet another key player is set to have likely season-ending surgery and that the Yankees gave them not one, but 10, to grow on in an embarrassing, 13-3, series-ending loss on Sunday?
The answer is probably somewhere between for the Baltimore Orioles, who entered this series a game behind the Yankees for first place and ended in the same position with 22 games remaining. They wanted more, but had to settle for less against an experienced and overstocked Yankees team that has brushed aside many upstarts and possible threats over the years.
“You think the Yankees are going to give it away? No,” Orioles center fielder Adam Jones said after his team squandered an opportunity to also win the season series, finishing tied at nine games apiece against a team that has a roughly $116 million edge in payroll.
The Orioles are done with the Yankees but they have six more against the hard-charging Tampa Bay Rays — who are one game behind Baltimore in the American League East and the wild-card standings — with a three-game series set to start at Camden Yards on Tuesday.
“It’s never easy up here,” designated hitter Chris Davis said. “We know what we have in front of us. We have our work cut out for us and we’re going to get after it.”
Though a victory on Sunday would have secured home-field advantage in a one-game playoff should they finish tied with the Yankees at the end of the season (now, Baltimore will need to have a better division record), Orioles Manager Buck Showalter said: “I’m trying to get [to the playoffs]. Right now, we’re trying to get in there clean.”
The Orioles probably won’t have starting right fielder and leadoff hitter Nick Markakis for that playoff run, after he suffered a broken left thumb on Saturday from an errant C.C. Sabathia pitch. Markakis is headed to Sarasota, Fla., on Monday to have a procedure that the Orioles hope will speed the healing process for a player who has longed to play meaningful games in September.
“I can’t think of any other way to put it besides it [stinks],” said Markakis, who had been hitting .335 in 54 games since returning from the disabled list on July 13. “It’s just something that happened and I’ve got to get through it. I have no idea what the timetable is. I just want to get it fixed up and get the recovery process going.”
The injury wipes out yet another longtime Oriole from a playoff run, with the team already without second baseman Brian Roberts and outfielder Nolan Reimold.
“It’s frustrating, devastating. There are a lot of adjectives to describe how you feel. We feel bad for him,” Davis said of Markakis, “but nobody is going to feel sorry for us.”
Showalter likes to use a line from the movie “Apollo 13” whenever a player goes down to injury, saying, “I believe this is going to be our finest hour.” He used the line again on Sunday before the Orioles lost and had to hear their fans sit mostly in stunned silence — except when they booed a collection of Yankees fans who were cheering the win — after a game that was just 5-3 in the fourth turned into a laugher by the eighth.
The problems for Baltimore began in the third inning, when starting pitcher Zach Britton leaned down to pick up a grounder from Yankees outfielder Nick Swisher. The ball bounced off Britton’s glove, drilled him in the eye and knocked loose a contact lens. He recorded the out, but was chased out of the next inning as the Yankees sent 10 batters to the plate and scored four runs. The Yankees would bat around again in the eighth, when they tacked on another five.
“Our guys are a little disappointed about what happened today,” Showalter said, adding that playing a tightly contested series against the Yankees doesn’t change his opinion of his team.
“The Yankees don’t have a corner on intensity. Everybody does. That city doesn’t. We have it hear in Baltimore. They have it in Kansas City. But I don’t think anything has to happen here. . . . We played four, really seven tough battles against these guys. I’m real proud of our people.”
The Orioles could have beaten the Yankees in a season series for the first time since 1997, but Jones has grown tired of referencing that year.
“That time was when I was what, 10, 12 years old? So, I’m 27 now. All that stuff about ’96, ’97, please, that’s so irrelevant to me in the present day. It shows, like every other sport, everybody is getting better,” Jones said. “You can’t just guarantee the Yankees are going to get this or guarantee the Red Sox are this, different divisions, you can’t guarantee Anaheim or Texas this, because every team is that much more competitive or a lot better. Like this year, to win the East, it use to take 98 wins. Now, it’s going to be low 90s to get this division.
“We have to get ready for Tampa,” Jones said. “They are coming in hot, so we move on. . . . We’ve got 22 games? Every inning, every pitch is important from here on out.”