The AL East is, hands down, the most competitive baseball division as the New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles opened an important three-game series at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday night. The O's entered the game three games behind the first-place Tampa Bay Rays, and the Yankees were three games behind Baltimore.
Yankees ace Gerrit Cole, , was not at the top of the game, and exited with five runs allowed in five innings plus two batters. He walked three and struck out only two, tied for his fewest strikeouts as a Yankee. The Orioles took a 4-0 lead on Gunnar Henderson's fourth-inning home run.
The Yankees rallied against O's starter Kyle Bradish and knotted the game up at 4-4 in the fifth inning. Baltimore regained the lead a half inning later. The score remained 5-4 until the bottom of the ninth inning when reigning AL MVP Aaron Judge launched a game-tying home run against all-world closer Félix Bautista. To the action footage:
The home run was Judge's 14th of the season and his eighth in his last nine games. Since returning from the injured list earlier this month, Judge is 18 for 49 (.367) with those eight home runs in 13 games. He's walked (12) nearly as much as he's struck out (15) too. Judge has picked up right where he left off last season when he swatted an American League record 62 home runs.
New York completed the comeback and won the game -- their fifth consecutive win -- on Volpe's walk-off sacrifice fly in the bottom of the tenth inning (NY 6, BAL 5 in 10 innings). The Yankees trailed 4-0 and 5-4 and saw stud relievers Yennier Cano and Bautista for three innings combined, yet they still managed to tie the game and then walk off with the win.
"It's one of the best feelings I've ever had," Volpe said about the walk-off sacrifice fly -- his first career walk-off RBI -- during his on-field interview (per MLB.com).
Ace reliever Michael King retired six of the seven batters he faced -- including all three with the automatic runner at second base in the top of the tenth -- to give the Yankees offense a chance in the ninth and tenth innings. The bullpen and the offense picked up Cole, who still owns a 2.53 ERA after Tuesday's dud. He's been one of the best pitchers in the game this year.
The win improves the Yankees to 30-20 and drops the Orioles to 31-17.. Tampa remains in first place and three games up on Baltimore, though the Yankees are now only five games back. It is the closest the Yankees have been to first place since April 22.