BALTIMORE — It could have been worse, but it didn’t come close to being good.
That sums up what the Yankees did at Camden Yards on Friday night, where they split a doubleheader against the awful Orioles.
After eking out a 6-5 win in the opener that took nine innings, the Yankees were in position to take the first two games of a four-game series and stay connected to the front-running Rays in the AL East.
That they turned to Deivi Garcia to help them sweep wasn’t daunting for the Yankees or Garcia. And though Garcia didn’t post the numbers he did in his major league debut last Sunday against the Mets, the right-hander gave the Yankees a chance.
Unfortunately, the depleted Yankees lineup didn’t do its part and Clarke Schmidt’s big league debut consisted of the first three Orioles driving in four runs that led to a 6-3 defeat.
Combined with the Rays beating the Marlins, the split dropped the Yankees to a season-high 5 ½ lengths back in the AL East race with 22 games remaining. At 21-17, they are tied for second with the Blue Jays.
It is easy to look at the 24-year-old Schmidt as the reason the Yankees let a 3-2 lead in the fifth slip away, and the former first-round pick admitted he has to do a better job whenever his next chance comes.
However, after going 4-for-14 with runners in scoring position in the opener, the Yankees only had four at-bats with runners in scoring position in the nightcap against a very suspect Orioles staff. Their production consisted of Thairo Estrada’s groundout scoring Tyler Wade from third in the third inning and Erik Kratz’s two-run, two-out single in the fourth that put the Yankees ahead, 3-2. But instead of building on that, the Yankees didn’t score in the final three innings and pinch-hitter DJ LeMahieu grounded out to end the sixth with two runners on.
“It is not easy for us right now,’’ manager Aaron Boone said after his team scratched out a close win in Game 1 by scoring three runs (one earned) in the second inning and two in the ninth when Miguel Andujar and Clint Frazier delivered RBI singles.
Boone had used Adam Ottavino on Wednesday and Thursday, and Zack Britton and Aroldis Chapman on Thursday and in the first game, so the manager did something very rare around the Yankees: He inserted Chad Green for the ninth inning although it was Green’s third appearance in three days. That is a workload the Yankees don’t subscribe to, but three outs away from a win was too alluring to take the chance of getting beaten while a lesser arm was on the mound.
The workload led to Boone replacing Garcia with Schmidt, who was summoned from the alternate site in Moosic, Pa., in between games and informed that it was going to be a Garcia-Schmidt relay because Ottavino, Britton, Chapman and Green were in dry dock.
“My job is to help the team win and I didn’t do that,’’ said Schmidt, who allowed the two runners he inherited from Garcia to score.
Now comes perhaps the Yankees’ biggest test of a season like no other: win the last two games against the Orioles before traveling to Buffalo for three against the pesky Blue Jays while still being without Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge.
Boone is right about his club: Nothing comes easy, but the talent gap between Boone’s roster and the Orioles even without James Paxton, Stanton and Judge is wide.
Gerrit Cole goes today and that has to be a win for the Yankees. To a lesser degree that flies for Masahiro Tanaka on Sunday.
Anything less and the remainder of the schedule will be to fight off the Blue Jays for second place.