BALTIMORE – If the New York Yankees must adjust on the fly to a sudden change in the schedule, there's no team they'd rather face than the Baltimore Orioles.
Baseball's weird season reached another level of strange Wednesday night when New York stepped in for the Miami Marlins and ruined Baltimore's home opener, hitting three home runs to back right-hander Gerrit Cole in a 9-3 victory.
Although the circumstances surrounding this Yankees-Orioles matchup was unusual, the result was not. The Yankees beat their AL East rivals for the 17th straight time since March 31, 2019, and for the 16th successive time at Camden Yards.
The Orioles were originally slated to launch the home portion of the abbreviated 60-game schedule against Miami, but the Marlins were ordered to take a hiatus after several players and coaches contracted COVID-19 over the weekend.
New York was scheduled to play Philadelphia on Wednesday, but the Phillies' season was put on hold as a precaution because they were Miami's opponent in the opening series.
So Major League Baseball thrust the Yankees and Orioles together while the Marlins and Phillies recover.
“I thought our mindset was really good," New York manager Aaron Boone said of the team's need to change direction without much notice. “I felt like our guys were good to go from the start. Getting here at a decent hour (Tuesday) night was important."
So was the pitching of Cole, who signed as a free agent in December after a starring for the Astros.
Cole (2-0) gave up three runs and four hits in 6 2/3 innings to win his 18th straight decision, six short of Carl Hubbell’s record streak in the 1930s. He is unbeaten in his last 24 starts.
In the opener, Cole went five innings in a win over Washington. In this one, he was in full control until faltering a bit in the seventh after his pitch count eclipsed 100.
“I thought it was a big step forward," Cole said. “I liked everything relative to my last start."
Switching gears from the Phillies to the Orioles was made easier by catcher Gary Sanchez, no stranger to Baltimore.
“We adjusted well. Gary was a huge help in this situation," Cole said.
After DJ LeMahieu homered off Asher Wojciechowski (0-1) on the game's second pitch, Aaron Judge and Aaron Hicks both went deep in the third for a 5-1 lead.
“I thought Asher missed location with the pitches," manager Brandon Hyde said. “All three were fastballs up or not located down. He got the ball into Judge, but he’s so strong."
The result was another Yankees blowout win over Baltimore. New York has scored 428 runs against the Orioles over the past three-plus seasons, the highest total in the majors over the span against a single team.
Baltimore played without first baseman Chris Davis, who was not in the ballpark and “unavailable," according to Hyde. The Orioles do not disclose positive tests for COVID-19, and Hyde would not explain the slugger's absence.
Davis wasn't the only one missing from Camden Yards. So were the fans, although this isn't the first time the Orioles played at home in an empty stadium. On April 29, 2015, Baltimore hosted the White Sox in a locked ballpark because of unrest in the city over the death of Freddie Gray, a Black man who died in police custody.
Dwight Smith Jr. homered for the Orioles, who managed only one hit through the first six innings.
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The Yankees have never had a longer winning streak against a team on the road, and their dominance of the Orioles is nearing record-breaking proportions. New York's road run against Baltimore is two short of the big league record of 18, held by Boston against the Yankees from October 1911-June 1931.
Baltimore's Pedro Severino was twice called for catcher's interference in the first inning, allowing two Yankees to reach base and leading to an unearned run.
Yankees: RHP Masahiro Tanaka (concussion) is scheduled to make his season debut Saturday against Boston. He's been out since being struck in the head with a line drive in a simulated game on July 5.
Orioles: LHP John Means is expected to come off the 10-day injured list to make his first appearance of the season Thursday night. Means was poised to make his initial opening day start last week before experiencing arm fatigue.
Yankees: LHP J.A. Happ makes his season debut in the series finale Thursday night. The 37-year-old is three strikeouts short of 1,500 for his career.
Orioles: Means was 0-2 with a 12.27 ERA in two starts against the Yankees as a rookie last year.
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