NEW YORK – Continually searching for their starting pitchers to last deep into games and save their beleaguered bullpen, the Baltimore Orioles appeared to be moving toward that outcome Saturday afternoon at Yankee Stadium when right-hander Bud Norris took the mound in the bottom of the sixth.
After tossing a warmup pitch, however, Norris grimaced and shook his head – immediately prompting manager Buck Showalter, pitching coach Dave Wallace and athletic trainer Richie Bancells to run out of the visitor dugout.
Moments later, Norris, who allowed just one earned run in the Orioles' 6-1 victory against the New York Yankees, walked off the mound with right groin tightness, forcing the constantly shuffling club to have to deal with another potential injury issue--one that comes as Norris was in the middle of an impressive run.
Counting Saturday's performance in which he gave up one run on three hits and two walks while striking out four in five innings, Norris (7-5) had allowed just two earned runs in his past three outings, a span of 19 2/3 innings.
Norris, who lowered his season ERA to 3.62, was on the verge of his third straight quality start before the injury forced him from the game and required reliever Ryan Webb to enter without warming in the bullpen.
Instead of getting most of the day off, the relievers again had to be used heavily, with Webb, Brian Matusz and Tommy Hunter combining for four scoreless innings to secure the win for the Orioles (38-35). They are again one game behind the second-place Yankees (39-34), with Sunday's series finale between Chris Tillman and Masahiro Tanaka looming.
The Orioles' offense didn't have much trouble scoring against Yankees lefty Vidal Nuno, who has been haunted by the long ball this season.
He had given up 10 homers in seven games this year at Yankee Stadium before Saturday, when he allowed a solo shot to Adam Jones in the first and a pair of two-run homers to Nelson Cruz in the fourth and Steve Pearce in the fifth.
Nuno (1-4) was charged with five runs (four earned) in 6 1/3 innings.
Cruz's homer was his 23rd of the season, tying him with Toronto's Edwin Encarnacion for the league lead. He now has two homers in three games after not going deep since June 3.
Pearce continued his recent tear--he is batting .421 in his past 11 games. In his last four games he is 8-for-16 (.500) with two homers, four doubles and seven RBIs.
The Orioles tied a season high with four homers on Saturday, and perhaps the most important longball came in the eighth with the Orioles already leading by four runs.
Shortstop J.J. Hardy, who hadn't hit a home run since Sept. 5, 2013, smashed a solo shot to left against reliever Jose Ramirez. It snapped a 339 at-bat homerless streak for Hardy, who hit 25 homers and won the American League Silver Slugger for shortstops last year.
It should have been a celebratory afternoon on the field for the Orioles, but the news regarding Norris could temper that. He is next scheduled to start Friday in one of the games of the doubleheader. If he can't make his turn, Tillman would likely be moved up to start on regular rest along with rookie Kevin Gausman, who is scheduled to be recalled from the minors to start one of those.
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