Bruce Zimmermann shines in long relief as Orioles rally past Yankees, 10-6, to end four-game skid

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BALTIMORE — Despite having not pitched in a game for over a week, left-hander Bruce Zimmermann’s work with Triple-A Norfolk had lined him up to contribute to the Orioles’ pitching plans for Sunday.

He did so in a big way, providing 5 ⅔ innings of long relief in the Orioles’ 10-6 victory over the New York Yankees to help end a four-game losing streak. Zimmermann, a Loyola Blakefield product who grew up an Orioles fan, earned his first major league home win at Camden Yards in front of a season-high crowd of 11,070.

Having been optioned to Triple-A two weeks earlier after lasting fewer than five innings for the third straight start, Zimmermann returned Sunday after the Orioles (17-23) optioned infielder Ramón Urías. Entering with Baltimore trailing 4-2 in the second, he retired 10 of the first 11 Yankees he faced, with Aaron Judge’s fourth home run of the series accounting for the only blemish. Seven of Judge’s 12 home runs this season have been off Baltimore pitching.

The Orioles’ offense struck for four unanswered runs as New York’s only other base runners against Zimmermann came on a fifth-inning walk and seventh-inning single. When manager Brandon Hyde turned to Tanner Scott with two outs in the seventh, Zimmermann exited to a standing ovation.

Against a Yankees lineup loaded with right-handers, Zimmermann relied heavily on his changeup. He threw each of his four pitches at least a mile per hour harder than he had on average this season, according to Statcast.

After a strikeout to strand Zimmermann’s runner, Scott allowed two base runners to open the eighth, but Paul Fry followed with a double play and strikeout. César Valdez surrendered a run in the ninth but managed to record the final three outs to avoid a sweep.

Opening act

Zimmermann’s lengthy outing didn’t qualify as his third quality start of 2021 because the first inning belonged to right-hander Adam Plutko. Hyde elected to use Plutko as an opener with the first eight members of New York’s lineup being right-handed, and the strategy backfired.

A leadoff walk and two singles quickly loaded the bases, though Plutko seemed positioned to minimize the damage when he allowed a run-scoring double play. But Gary Sánchez and Clint Frazier followed with back-to-back home runs.

Plutko had worked mostly as a starter with the Cleveland Indians but had yet to pitch in that role since Baltimore acquired him in a trade late in spring training. The four runs he allowed in Sunday’s one-inning start exceeded the three against him in 21 ⅓ frames of relief as an Oriole.

Rally caps

The Orioles quickly went to work erasing their early deficit. Trey Mancini worked a two-out walk and scored when Ryan Mountcastle doubled just fair into the right-field corner. Pedro Severino followed with an RBI single.

With Zimmermann slowing the Yankees’ offense, Baltimore tied the game with three runs in the third, with Mountcastle’s sacrifice fly preceding run-scoring hits from Maikel Franco and Freddy Galvis.

After fourth-inning doubles from Cedric Mullins and Mancini gave the Orioles their first lead, Franco added some insurance with a two-run home run in the seventh, his first since April 25. Franco’s three-hit day nearly matched his total from the previous three weeks, as he entered amid a 4-for-51 slump.

Mountcastle added a two-run single in the eighth to give him his first career four-RBI game.

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