The Yankees overcame being held without a hit for six innings on Saturday, but they couldn’t survive the latest wild meltdown by closer Aroldis Chapman.
Joey Gallo snapped an 0-for-17 skid with a game-tying home run in the eighth, but Chapman loaded the bases and coughed up the go-ahead run in the final inning for a costly 4-3 loss to the dead-last Orioles at the Stadium.
The Yanks now have dropped five of seven since their 13-game winning streak, and they fell to 9-5 against Baltimore this season with four games remaining against the team with the worst record (42-92) and team ERA (5.78) in MLB.
By contrast, the first-place Rays finished the season 18-1 against the lowly O’s and lead the Yanks by 7.5 games in the AL East, with the Red Sox just a half-game behind for the first wild-card berth.
“Look, these games are super important and we’re trying to win ’em. We got held down enough today,” Aaron Boone said. “That’s frustrating and unfortunate, but we have a big one Sunday we have to grab.”
Yanks starter Jordan Montgomery has received scant offensive support over the past two months, but this showing represented an extreme lack of offense by his pinstriped teammates.
Montgomery has allowed three runs or fewer in each of his past dozen starts since June 20, the longest such streak of his career. Still, the Yanks have managed just 10 combined runs in those 12 outings while the lefty was still in the game, including zero runs of support before Montgomery departed in seven of the 12.
“I would be able to throw a lot more heaters and pitch to contact more [with more run support], but I’m OK with doing my job and picking up the offense when I’m out there, if necessary,” Montgomery said. “I’m tough enough to do it, I’m good enough to do it, and my stuff is good enough to do it. So if I have to, I will.”
That trend continued Saturday, as Montgomery was hooked by Boone with the Yanks trailing 1-0 with the bases loaded and two outs in the fifth. The lone Baltimore run against Montgomery scored one inning earlier on a wild pitch to complete a walk of Jorge Mateo, allowing Trey Mancini to score from third, with two more runs added against Wandy Peralta in the seventh.
Meanwhile, rookie Chris Ellis and two relievers limited the Yanks (78-57) to one hit — a run-scoring infield single by Gleyber Torres in the seventh — to build a 3-1 lead.
After DJ LeMahieu reached on an infield single leading off the eighth, Gallo crushed reliever Jorge Lopez’s 1-2 changeup into the right-field seats for a 3-3 game. It was Gallo’s 31st homer of the season and sixth as a Yankee, but only his second in 16 games.
Still, Chapman loaded the bases in the ninth, beginning with a wild pitch that Gary Sanchez failed to block on a would-be strikeout of Ryan Mountcastle to open the inning.
Chapman then allowed a single to Austin Hays and walked Trey Mancini. After Ramon Urias struck out, Pedro Severino put the Orioles ahead with a sacrifice fly to left.
“Before today, I thought his previous two outings were not only strong, but really efficient,” Boone said of Chapman. “Then today, even when it started to get a little wobbly there, I feel like he was able to corral it. I feel like that was important.”
Chapman had tossed three scoreless frames over his previous three outings after getting yanked before completing an inning in two of his first three appearances following his activation from the injured list on Aug. 18. The seven-time All-Star threw 17 fastballs, 10 sliders and a splitter among his 28 pitches Saturday, but he insisted he’s “never” lost confidence in his fastball.
“Definitely some bad moments [this season]. I’m just fighting to be able to overcome those bad moments,” Chapman said through his interpreter. “It’s just work. You have to keep working at it and the goal is to keep improving every day.
“Every day I’m out there practicing and looking for that consistency. I can tell you this. I really enjoy what I do, I enjoy playing baseball and my job as the closer. That’s what you have to focus on — your job, and the passion for of the game. I just have to keep grinding at it.”