BALTIMORE—For years, whenever the Boston Red Sox or New York Yankees played here, their fans would outnumber or, at least, out-cheer Oriole fans.
On Friday, that was different in the home opener. The Orioles held on for a taut 7-6 win over the Yankees before a sellout crowd of 45,018, and there was no question who the fans were cheering for.
“A lot of people showed up, great crowd, great energy in the ballpark,” manager Brandon Hyde said.
“Players fed off it. You can definitely feel the excitement. Sometimes you play the Yankees here in the past few years, there’s been quite a few Yankees fans. Tonight, it was a definite Baltimore crowd all the way through, and it was awesome to be a part of.”
In past years, the Orioles played American League East teams 19 times. This year, it’s only 13. Perhaps that will help them.
“Our division is tough,” Hyde said. “I think that’s why a lot of our players have improved, the competition we’ve played … the type of starting pitching they’ve faced, the type of lineups our pitchers have to face. It definitely makes you tougher. Our guys are used to playing close games against good clubs. That’s benefited us.”
Yankees manager Aaron Boone, who has faced the Orioles since 2017, when their downward slide began, knows that this matchup is more difficult now.
“As far as I’m concerned, they’re a tough team to beat and they’re contenders now,” Boone said. “You know you’ve got to play well to beat them. … They’re a formidable opponent. We know that. We saw that building the last couple years but certainly last year, and now they’re playing with a lot of confidence. They’re a tough team to play against.”
The Orioles (4-3) led 4-0 after three, and Franchy Cordero, who signed with New York (4-3) after he failed to make the Orioles’ roster out of spring training, hit a three-run home run in the fourth.
With the Orioles clinging to that 4-3 lead, starting pitcher Dean Kremer allowed a leadoff single to Giancarlo Stanton in the sixth. Logan Gillaspie walked his first batter, Gleyber Torres, and allowed a two-run double to Oswaldo Cabrera that gave New York a 5-4 lead.
Catcher Adley Rutschman drove in shortstop Jorge Mateo in the sixth to tie the score at 5. In the seventh, the Orioles took a 7-5 lead on Ramón Urías’ RBI double. He scored on a wild pitch by Jimmy Cordero.
“Every time they threw a punch, we threw it right back,” designated hitter Gunnar Henderson said. It was his first home opener, and he appreciated the crowd.
“It was really awesome to play behind them because it’s a baseball city, and they love the Orioles, so going out there and being able to win was awesome,” he said.
Relief pitcher Cionel Pérez retired the Yankees in order in the seventh but began the eighth by allowing a double to Stanton, an RBI single to Torres and a single to Cabrera.
Bryan Baker relieved Pérez and got José Trevino to hit a sharp grounder to Urías at third. After Urías made a nifty backhand stop, he stepped on third and threw to first for a 5-3 double play. Baker then struck out Isiah Kiner-Falefa to end the eighth.
“I think I blacked out a little bit,” Baker said. “I think it was fun, though. I didn’t really know what to expect coming in. Ramón making that play was massive.”
Baker walked off the mound pounding his chest.
“That was one of the best crowds I played in front of,” Baker said. “I definitely fed off their energy. I used that to my advantage as best I could. It was electric from the start, and then we let them back into it. Feeding off their energy is something that we can definitely use.”
Orioles closer Félix Bautista struck out Anthony Volpe and DJ LeMahieu to start the ninth and walked Aaron Judge, who was hitless in his first four at-bats. Judge stole second and went to third on a wild pitch before Anthony Rizzo flied to left to end the game.
The Orioles play the Yankees on Saturday night and Sunday, face them in New York in late May and early July. Their final games against them will come July 28th-30th.
“It was a pretty cool feeling today, showing up to the park and knowing that black and orange was definitely ruling the day,” Baker said.
Notes: The Orioles are 46-24 in home openers, and 22-10 at Oriole Park … Cole Irvin (0-1, 13.50) will face Nestor Cortes (1-0, 1.80) on Saturday at 7:05 p.m.
Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB