If Beltran does not hit that home run Friday night Yanks would have been swept by O’s

By Rich Mancuso

Put it this way. Had Carlos Beltran not hit that dramatic ninth inning walk-off home run Friday night, the New York Yankees would have been swept by the Baltimore Orioles in the Bronx. The Yankees head to Toronto a game-and-a half off the pace in another important series that begins tomorrow night.

Yes, it is late June and plenty more to play before this Al east division is decided. And plenty of time to win ballgames and take series in order to be a part of October baseball. On Old-Timer’s Day, at Yankee Stadium Sunday afternoon, the Yankees did not follow-up with they did against first place Toronto earlier this week, that is sweep or take a series.

“We put ourselves in a spot to make a run…Just have to do more,” Mark Texiera said. He was referring to winning more series, especially now with the Yankees in a stretch of games against divisional opponents.

Add to the fact, Masahiro Tanaka, who has become the Yankees ace on the mound, got his second loss of the season. Yes, Tanaka is not invincible as may have appeared. More so, his tendency to give up the home run ball early has become constant. The slider did not locate when Jonathan Schoop hit a bases empty homer off the rookie in the second inning.

Tanaka, (11-2) went six innings allowing three runs and six hits. It was the second time Schoop has gone long off Tanaka this season. The prevailing question: Has the league a second time around figured a way to score runs off the Japanese right-hander?

Probably, that will have to be determined because the prevailing opinion is, Tanaka is hittable but one of the premier pitchers in baseball is capable of not being invincible.

The Yankees had to battle back all afternoon, and they could not come up with anything against the Orioles’ Chris Tillman who tossed seven shutout innings.  In the third, fourth and seventh innings they could not come up with the big hit, and stranded runners in an 8-0 loss.

“He pitched effectively,” commented New York manager Joe Girardi about Tanaka.

There is no dispute that Tanaka is the premiere pitcher in baseball and point out something that will say otherwise. And until CC Sabathia returns from the disabled list, Tanaka is the Yankees’ ace on the mound. That can still be the case if Sabathia returns and does not have the velocity or control that he displayed before going down with right knee inflammation.

In the meantime, the Yankees had momentum after sweeping a three-game series over Toronto. The Blue Jays have not figured a way to beat the Yankees in the Bronx, losing 16-straight at Yankee Stadium since September 19 of 2012.  So, that Beltran home run Friday night, reminiscent of those many Yankees championship teams that won games in their last at bat, perhaps brought optimism that things were coming together for the Yankees.

After all, this is a division that can be had. The team in Tampa Bay is a sinking ship, the defending champion Red Sox are going to need a strong second half to stay in the post season hunt, but the Orioles may be showing signs of being a team the Yankees will have to challenge at the end.

The Orioles moved even with the Yankees in second place. They are 4-2 against the Yankees this season and in the three- game series their starters posted a 1.02 ERA.  Tillman has pitched consecutive games of seven-innings and the bat of J.J. hardy has started to get going.

You will hear it from Girardi often, as he said it again Sunday: “We have a long way to go but winning games against teams in your division is important.”  Three games up in Toronto this week will be important.

The Yankees know the season has not reached the mid-point and it may be the Orioles more than the Blue Jays that will be a concern.

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