Young starters roughed up as Orioles drop doubleheader to Yankees

NEW YORK - On a day in which the Orioles traded two of their more popular veterans for three young players, the club turned a doubleheader in Yankee Stadium over to two 23-year-old starting pitchers who are supposed to be part of the future.

It’s safe to say the future did not look particularly bright Saturday, as the New York Yankees beat the Orioles’ 8-3 in the afternoon and then pummeled them 17-3 in the nightcap.

The Orioles (42-62) have dropped eight games in nine tries against the Yankees (63-42).

Chris Tillman, fresh off of two months in Triple-A Norfolk, allowed seven runs (five earned) over 4 1/3 innings in the first game.

And his performance was downright palatable compared to what happened in Game 2.

Lefty Zach Britton, who was recalled on Saturday from Double-A Bowie as Tillman was returned to Norfolk, faced 10 batters in the first and retired just one.  He gave up nine runs (six earned), and reliever Jason Berken surrendered three more in the Yankees’ 12-run first.

“It’s tough to swallow,” said Britton, who spent three weeks with the Baysox and hadn’t pitched in the big leagues since July 8. “I mean, the game is over in the first inning, so as a position player, I can only imagine what they are thinking. They know there is no way that we are going to win this game most likely. So, it just kind of takes the wind out of your sails.”

It was the most runs the Yankees have scored in a first inning in their storied history. The Orioles haven’t allowed that many runs in an inning since giving up 16 in the eighth to Texas on April 19, 1996 in a 26-7 loss.

“[Britton] just didn't have a whole lot to defend himself with tonight and against a lineup like that, you're going to have a tough outing,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said.

Britton started the season 6-1 and was a legitimate candidate for American League Rookie of the Year. He’s hit rough times since.

In his last start before his demotion, he was tagged with eight runs (seven earned) in 2/3 of an inning against Boston. So in his last two major-league starts, Britton has surrendered 17 runs (13 earned) in one combined inning.

“It is frustrating not to get out of the first inning, especially two times in a row,” Britton said. “It’s a struggle like I have never been through before and I just have to start making adjustments.”

The nightcap was over almost before it started. After the crazy first inning, which included a two-run homer by Nick Swisher and two Orioles errors, the Yankees scored three more in the second to take a 15-0 lead.

The Orioles actually outscored the Yankees, 3-2, after the second. Vladimir Guerrero had four hits, including his ninth homer of the season, a solo shot against Yankee starter Ivan Nova (9-4) in the sixth inning.

But the Yankees set a season-high with 24 hits and tied a season-high with 17 runs. The Orioles allowed 17 runs one other time this season, on May 20 against Washington, but they hadn’t given up 24 hits yet this season.

The Orioles used six pitchers in the game including Michael Gonzalez, who had to leave in the eighth when he was struck by a Mark Teixeira liner on the left wrist, and Mark Hendrickson who left after the seventh when he took a liner off his left hand and shoulder.

X-Rays on Gonzalez’s wrist and Hendrickson’s shoulder were negative, Showalter said. The tests on Hendrickson’s hand weren’t back yet, and Showalter said he hoped neither was a disabled list candidate. However, with the shape of the club’s bullpen, the Orioles are expected to make some moves for Sunday’s game.

“Do I think they'll both be 15 days before they can pitch again? If you asked me right now, no,” Showalter said. “But we have to look at all the options we have to bring probably a minimum of two pitchers. I've got to shake out what was used in Norfolk and potentially Bowie.”

Saturday night’s destruction came shortly after the Orioles agreed to trade reliever Koji Uehara and $2 million to the Texas Rangers for two 25-year-olds: first baseman Chris Davis and right-handed pitcher Tommy Hunter.

“We had a rare opportunity to add two 25-year-old players that had major-league success and they are players that are going to be with us for several seasons,” Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail said. “But Koji did a terrific job for us.”

The Orioles also agreed late Saturday night to a trade sent veteran first baseman Derrek Lee and cash to the Pittsburgh Pirates for 23-year-old first baseman Aaron Baker, who has batted .282 with 15 homers in 103 games for Single-A Bradenton.

For two innings Saturday afternoon, the Orioles thought they had dipped into their own minors and brought out the Tillman they have been longing for: A confident, strike-throwing fast worker with zip on his fastball.

But after that, Tillman had trouble locating his pitches – a common theme in his brief but erratic big-league career.

“Fastball was there the first two innings, and then it got away from me,” said Tillman, who hadn’t started in the big leagues since May 27. “I went to my off-speed stuff later on, and every time I fell behind a hitter, I got hurt."

Tillman retired the first six batters he faced, including four on consecutive strikeouts. He touched 94 mph with his fastball – a significant uptick from the 89 he averaged in his first 10 starts this year -- and threw 17 of his first 24 pitches for strikes.

"It's the first time in a while I've seen him go out from pitch one carrying an aggressive, above-average fastball," Showalter said. "When he can do that, he can pitch with his fastball [in the majors]."

A Brett Gardner two-run single that sneaked past drawn-in third baseman Mark Reynolds gave the Yankees a two-run lead in the third. But things began to really fall apart for Tillman in a fourth inning in which he threw 35 pitches – the same number he had tossed in the first three innings combined.

The Orioles scored two runs on groundouts by J.J. Hardy and Craig Tatum to tie the score, before Tillman immediately returned the lead in a three-run fourth. He issued a leadoff walk to Robinson Cano, and Nick Swisher followed with a two-run homer to right on a 93-mph, belt-high fastball.

“They weren’t hitting his fastball. It’s just, we got in counts where they could sit fastball. We made the mistake and they made us pay,” said Tatum, the reserve catcher. “I just thought the first two innings we were ahead of everybody, and the second time it was 2-0, 2-1, 3-1 and that’s just what gave [Tillman] trouble, because his stuff didn’t change. His fastball didn’t change. It was the best fastball he’s had since I caught him [in July, 2010] against Texas.”

Tillman (2-4) was charged with seven runs (five earned) in 4 1/3 innings pitched. It was the fourth straight big-league start, and sixth of his past seven in the majors, that he hasn’t gotten beyond five innings. He did, however, record a season-high six strikeouts.

“It's always frustrating. A loss is a loss,” Tillman said. “Losing is frustrating. It's been a long two months. Like I said, it's a work in process. It can all change overnight. Keep working at it.”

Yankees starter Bartolo Colon wasn’t particularly efficient, but he was effective enough. He lasted just five innings, allowing five hits on two walks while striking out six. Colon (8-6) was forced to throw 105 pitches in five innings.

The husky right-hander was replaced by Cory Wade, who allowed one run in three innings, a homer to Reynolds in the eighth.

It was Reynolds’ team-high 23rd homer of the season and second in two games.

 But that was a brief highlight in a nightmarish day for the Orioles in the Bronx.

“They're good. And we're not as good as them right now. Especially not tonight,” Showalter said. “But on a given night, we will. Keep grinding, keep working, and our guys will remember nights like tonight and do the things it takes to be more competitive.”

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