AP Baseball Writer
NEW YORK (AP) – Who’s on first wasn’t an Abbott and Costello question for Bryan Mitchell. With New York short on pitchers, the Yankees reliever played there for the first time since high school.
After throwing a scoreless ninth inning, Mitchell moved to first and allowed one foul popup to fall for an error in the 10th, then caught another. He returned to the mound in relief of closer Aroldis Chapman to start the 11th and gave up run-scoring singles to Mark Trumbo and Welington Castillo in the Baltimore Orioles’ 7-4 win Sunday, which stopped New York’s winning streak at four.
“The whole series was kind of crazy,” Yankees left fielder Brett Gardner said.
New York overcame a 9-1 deficit to win Friday’s series opener 14-11 in 10 innings, then romped 12-4 Saturday. With Adam Warren and Tommy Layne unavailable after outings in the middle game, Yankees manager Joe Girardi felt a need to improvise. So when Mitchell reached the dugout in the middle of the ninth, pitching coach Larry Rothschild asked him a question out of right field: Would he move to first if the game went into extras, allowing him to return to the mound later?
“All right. I’ll go get a glove. I’ll be ready,” Mitchell remembered responding.
Mitchell retrieved one of first baseman’s Greg Bird’s mitts from the clubhouse and became the first Yankees pitcher to play another position since Billy Martin petulantly put Ron Guidry in center for the finish of the Pine Tar Game against Kansas City on Aug. 18, 1983.
Sure enough, the leadoff batter hit the ball to Mitchell – Castillo’s foul pop just in front of first base. Castillo singled after Mitchell’s error prolonging the at-bat, and Mitchell rebounded to glove Jonathan Schoop’s foul pop for the second out – earning a standing ovation.
“I was praying for him, to be honest with you,” Yankees reliever Dellin Betances said.
Mitchell smiled at his new-found fielding ability.
“I guess I just went back too far and the ball had a lot of spin. I just never actually got there,” he said. “Luckily, the next one was a little closer to me.”
Girardi wasn’t sure whether Mitchell ever had played first.
“I didn’t ask,” he said. “I have a strikeout pitcher on the mound. You don’t assume there’s going to be too many groundballs over there.”
Even in the 11th, when he was back on the mound, Mitchell tried to keep making fielding plays.
“All of a sudden he started running after every popup,” Girardi said, shaking his head.
New York’s unconventional move was thwarted by Logan Verrett (1-0), who escaped a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the 10th. Castillo scooped shortstop J.J. Hardy’s one-hop throw home on Starlin Castro’s grounder to force Austin Romine, and the reliever struck out hot-hitting rookie Aaron Judge.
“I thought to myself this is an opportunity for me to have a big moment here at Yankee Stadium and to put a stamp on my Orioles debut,” said Verrett, brought up from the minors on Sunday morning.
Castillo kept his left foot on the plate as Romine slid in with his left shoulder.
“It’s instinct,'” Castillo said.
New York stranded 16 runners in a 4-hour 37-minute marathon. Didi Gregorius’ two-run, two-out single off Donnie Hart tied the score 4-all in the ninth before Chris Carter took a called third strike with runners at second and third. Orioles manager Buck Showalter was ejected for arguing a balk call on Darren O’Day that set up Gregorius’ single.
“Same thing he’s been doing for eight or nine years,” Showalter said. “Think we call it over-officiating in basketball.”
Joey Ricard singled with one out in the 11th against Mitchell (1-1), stole second and, after an intentional walk to Manny Machado, scored on Trumbo’s two-out single. Castillo singled for a 6-4 lead, and Machado got into a rundown and came home when Chase Headley bobbled the ball at third.
Verrett finished with only the second 1-2-3 inning for Orioles pitchers. Baltimore starter Wade Miley went to seven three-ball counts in the first three innings, when he threw 79 pitches and stranded seven runners. He walked five or more for the third time in five starts, allowing two runs, eight hits and five walks in five innings.
“They let us hang around a little bit there early,” Showalter said. “They had a chance to open some things up and Wade didn’t let it happen. That will not go forgotten. He didn’t implode and let the game get away from us.”
A year after an 8-14 April start, New York ended the first month tied with the Orioles for the AL East lead at 15-8.
“Definitely happy with where we’re at,” Gardner said.
New York’s telecasts on YES averaged 330,000 viewers in the New York designated market area through Friday, up from 237,000 in April last year (when Comcast did not carry YES) and 251,000 in April 2015. It is the highest viewership since an average of 341,000 in April 2014, Derek Jeter’s last season.
Orioles: 1B Chris Davis was removed from the starting lineup about an hour before gametime because of a sore right elbow – he was 0 for 7 with five strikeouts since he was hit on the elbow Friday by a pitch from New York’s CC Sabathia. Davis played first in the 11th. … Closer Zach Britton, on the DL since April 16 with a strained left forearm, pitched a scoreless, one-hit inning Sunday in his second rehab appearance for Double-A Bowie, throwing eight of 11 pitches for strikes.
Yankees: C Gary Sanchez, who hasn’t played since April 8 because of a strained right biceps, could be activated for the series at the Chicago Cubs starting Friday. He is to start a rehab assignment Tuesday at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
Orioles: RHP Dylan Bundy (3-1) starts Monday’s series opener at Boston and RHP Rick Porcello (1-3).
Yankees: RHP Luis Severino (2-1) is on the mound Monday against Toronto and RHP Marco Estrada (0-1).
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