Gonzalez's gutsy effort not rewarded by O's

Rallies fall short; Yankees' three-run second the difference

Gonzalez's gutsy effort not rewarded by O's

BALTIMORE -- Nelson Cruz's single in the third inning appeared to be the start of a rally for the Orioles. After falling behind by three runs in the second, the O's had threatened again and finally plated a run.

Two batters later, the inning was over and the Orioles managed to plate only one run. Despite tagging Yankees starting pitcher Shane Greene for six hits in the first three innings and more than doubling its rival's hits total, Baltimore struggled to score on Saturday afternoon. The Yankees made Baltimore starter Miguel Gonzalez pay for his few mistakes, and a three-run second inning was all they needed for a 3-2 win in front of 44,231 at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

Baltimore's loss keeps its magic number to clinch the American League East at five, as the Blue Jays beat the Rays, 6-3, earlier in the day. Toronto now trails the O's by 10 1/2 games in the division.

"You're not always going to be where you want to be," Gonzalez said. "That was a tough inning right there, but we were able to minimize the damage afterward."

The pitch that started Gonzalez's first unspectacular outing since the beginning of August, however, wasn't quite a mistake. The 82-mph changeup sat well below the bottom of the zone and may have even hit the dirt had Brian McCann kept the bat on his shoulder.

Instead, the powerful catcher's bat became a nine iron. The ball sliced through the rain and soared over the towering right-field wall to start the decisive three-run inning.

"McCann did a really good job; you've got to tip your cap there," Orioles catcher Caleb Joseph said. "[Gonzalez] kind of lost command there, just for a few batters. That's all it takes sometimes with good teams."

Gonzalez (9-8) walked the next batter and allowed a single and double to follow before a double steal -- including a steal of home by Chris Young -- capped the frame. Gonzalez didn't allow a hit the rest of the day and allowed only the three runs on three hits in all despite striking out only one batter.

Still, that qualifies as Gonzalez's worst outing since he surrendered four runs in five innings against the Mariners on Aug. 2.

"In a lot of ways, that's one of the more impressive outings of the year from him, because he wasn't carrying much," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "I think that's the difference in Major League pitchers -- guys who can have success out there and keep you engaged in a game."

After the third inning, Greene (5-3) didn't give the Orioles many chances. He retired eight of the last nine batters he faced -- Steve Pearce belted a solo homer with one out in the sixth -- and finished the game with nine strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings. In 12 1/3 innings against Greene this season, Baltimore has struck out 18 times.

"You can see why they're so high on him," Showalter said of Greene. "A lot of cutters, a lot of command, a lot of different looks. You can tell he's pitching with a lot of confidence. I can see why they like him."

When Greene left, the O's chances opened up. Baltimore got the leadoff hitter aboard in each of the final three frames. In the seventh, the bottom of the order and leadoff hitter Nick Markakis spoiled Ryan Flaherty's leadoff walk. An inning later, the heart of the order couldn't capitalize on Adam Jones' leadoff single.

One day after playing the hero in Game 1 of Baltimore's doubleheader sweep against the Yankees, Jimmy Paredes once again had a chance to be the hero when he led off the ninth inning. Paredes singled off David Robertson, moved to second on Flaherty's sacrifice bunt and advanced to third on a Delmon Young groundout.

Markakis, already with two hits on the day, stepped in with a chance to tie or win the game against a reliever who threw 35 pitches a day earlier. But the outfielder grounded out to secure a loss for the O's, who left eight runners on base and slipped to 29-21 in one-run games this season.

"Those type of games, sometimes we find a way to win," Joseph said. "It didn't happen today, but we'll suit up again tomorrow."

David Wilson is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.