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Orioles jump on Yankees early for 9-3 win in Sunday night spotlight, claim season series for first time since 2016

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Much of the Orioles’ rebuild was spent out of the national spotlight, though that’s likely where they preferred their recurrent defeats, the all-too-common games where the opposing team put them in an insurmountable hole.

On Sunday, they returned the favor to one of the frequent deliverers of those challenging nights, beating the New York Yankees, 9-3, in front of a national audience on ESPN’s “Sunday Night Baseball,” while setting a franchise record by striking out 18 opposing batters in a nine-inning game. By winning Sunday, the Orioles claimed the season series against the Yankees for the first time since 2016, the season of their most recent playoff berth. They entered this year 20-47 against New York under manager Brandon Hyde, including a 2-17 record in his first season in 2019.

“I have a little bit more competitive roster, so that makes it nice,” Hyde said. “It’s a little bit more fair fight than it has been in the past. We’re able to pitch to them — we didn’t in the past — and we’re able to score some runs, and we had a tough time in that in the past. We’re a lot more talented than my first few years here, and so it’s a little bit more fair.”

The last time Camden Yards hosted a “Sunday Night Baseball” was also against New York, with that Aug. 26, 2018, defeat one of the many in a four-year span in which the Orioles lost 36 more games than any other organization.

But Baltimore (64-41) has come out the other side as one of baseball’s best teams. They lead the Tampa Bay Rays by 1 1/2 games in the American League East, with the Yankees (55-50) in last and nine games behind Baltimore despite having a record that would put them atop the AL Central.

The Orioles’ improved play is beginning to show in the Camden Yards stands. With an announced crowd of 37,429 on Sunday, the weekend series represented Baltimore’s best draw for a three-game set since July 2016.

“When it’s packed out and you hear the crowd getting into it, there’s no better feeling,” Orioles All-Star catcher Adley Rutschman said. “Everyone gets that much more excited and just feels like the atmosphere that you dream about playing in. And it’s here.”

Hyde treated the game as dicier than the score indicated it was, but the Orioles led comfortably throughout thanks to a seven-run first inning. Baltimore’s first six batters reached against Yankees right-hander Luis Severino, who they had likewise pummeled in a start earlier this month in New York.

After singles by Adley Rutschman and Gunnar Henderson, doubles from Anthony Santander and Ryan O’Hearn, and a walk from Austin Hays, Adam Frazier highlighted the frame with a three-run home run. Batting leadoff for the second straight game, Rutschman came back around for a second time and singled again, driving in Jordan Westburg for the frame’s final run. It was the third time this season the Orioles scored seven runs in an inning against the Yankees.

Rutschman, Baltimore’s first pick in the 2019 draft, added a walk and another single as he continued reaching base while moving one spot up the order. The 25-year-old figured these past two games were his first time batting leadoff since he was a sophomore in high school.

“I kind of just show up and do what they tell me,” Rutschman said. “I feel like there’s a mental stigma behind batting in different positions, but I’m just trying to do the same exact thing, just in the leadoff spot.”

Added Hyde: “When I talked to him about it, I said, ‘Don’t change. Just because you’re leading off the game, your at-bats are exactly the same. You’re just hitting above Gunnar instead of hitting after him.’”

Baltimore starter Dean Kremer struck out two in a perfect top of the first, but struggled to work efficiently once provided the large lead. He left the bases loaded in the second and surrendered two deep flyballs to open the third, the first from Jake Bauers landing in the Orioles’ bullpen for a home run and the second hitting the top of Camden Yards’ deep left field wall for a double by Gleyber Torres. Kremer recovered to strike out New York’s next three batters, but Bauers’ double off Kremer in the fourth plated another run.

The Orioles answered with RBI doubles by Henderson and O’Hearn, chasing Severino and leaving him with 16 earned runs allowed and 18 outs recorded across two starts against them this month. But Kremer did not outlast him by much. On his 90th pitch, Giancarlo Stanton singled to center, eventually coming home with Mike Baumann on the mound to leave Kremer with three runs surrendered over four-plus innings. Hyde was unsure whether the long first inning factored into Kremer’s performance, but the right-hander didn’t bemoan it.

“You can’t complain when the team puts up a touchdown and the extra point,” Kremer said. “Our team, when they get going, they’re pretty fun to watch.”

Baltimore’s bullpen was otherwise spotless over its five innings of work. After an early defensive substitution from Hyde — taking out second baseman Jordan Westburg as part of a series of moves to get Ryan McKenna in center and Frazier out of left field — Shintaro Fujinami, the Orioles’ lone trade acquisition thus far ahead of Tuesday’s deadline, worked two scoreless innings, giving him 4 2/3 scoreless frames and seven strikeouts in his past three outings, and Danny Coulombe followed with a shutout eighth.

Although the Orioles led by six runs throughout, All-Star setup man Yennier Cano warmed up in the bullpen three times, then entered for the ninth, with Hyde acknowledging he would have preferred to avoid using him in that situation but that Kremer’s short start left him with limited options. Cano struck out the side for 18 total strikeouts by Baltimore pitching, the team’s most for a nine-inning game and tied for its third most for a game of any length.

“I love the way our guys play,” Rutschman said. “I think we’re really talented, and we play together. I’m excited to see what we can do.”

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