NEW YORK (AP) — Miguel Gonzalez has quickly gone from an unwanted minor leaguer with a surgically-repaired right elbow to one of the best arms in the Baltimore Orioles’ rotation.
Gonzalez pitched solidly into the seventh inning in his fifth big league start, leading the Orioles to a 5-4 victory over the slumping New York Yankees on Monday night.
“This is not his first good outing here,” manager Buck Showalter said. “I think he’s given us pretty good outings consistently.”
Gonzalez (3-2) cruised through 6 2-3 innings, giving up just four hits and two runs, before he was chased by consecutive homers from Eric Chavez and Ichiro Suzuki — his 100th career home run — that made it 5-4.
He missed all of 2009 because of Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. And after going winless in the minors last year, Gonzalez went unsigned until late February when the Orioles gave him a chance. He made his major league debut May 29 and his first start July 6.
Other than a horrid start Wednesday when he gave up seven runs in 2 2-3 innings while not feeling well, Gonzalez has kept Baltimore competitive in each of his starts. He pitched into at least the sixth in his three other outings, going a high of seven.
After all he’s been through, could he believe he was pitching in an important division game in the ballpark in the Bronx?
“No,” Gonzalez said with a smile. “I was happy to be here and real happy to play at Yankee Stadium and play in front of that crowd. It was a great experience.”
Suzuki had a chance to tie it with two runners on in the ninth against Orioles closer Jim Johnson but grounded into a fielder’s choice.
Darren O’Day relieved Gonzalez and pinch-hitter Russell Martin gave his second pitch a ride to the warning track in straightaway center field for the third out. Derek Jeter led off the eighth with a hit off the glove of reliever Pedro Strop, but the Yankees failed to score.
Strop did not have to face Mark Teixeira, though. The Yankees first baseman was lifted before the eighth after he appeared to injure his left wrist while trying to make a diving play on J.J. Hardy’s sharp grounder that went through for an RBI single and a 5-2 lead.
Teixeira said he hurt the wrist in his third at-bat against Boston on Sunday. Still, he felt as if he could play. Then he tweaked it in the field.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi said X-rays on the wrist were negative but Teixeira will have further tests Tuesday.
“I’ve had a little thing in my wrist before, back in 2009. Hopefully it will just get better in a few days,” Teixeira said. “You’re always playing through something.”
Johnson gave up a leadoff double to Nick Swisher in the ninth. With one out, Chavez walked. Suzuki walked to the plate to chants of “Ee-Chi-ro!” He grounded to shortstop but, still speedy at 38 years old, he beat the relay throw from second to put runners on first and third for Martin. Johnson struck him out for his 31st save.
Nick Markakis drove in two runs and Wilson Betemit homered in the third off Freddy Garcia (4-5) for Baltimore, which has had trouble scoring of late. The Orioles cut New York’s lead in the AL East to 6 1/2 games despite winning for just the third time in eight games. The Yankees have lost eight of 11 after opening a 10-game advantage.
“We know where we stand, who we’re up against,” Markakis said. “We just got to take it day by day.”
Baltimore hasn’t been to the playoffs since 1997 and with the trade deadline looming Tuesday afternoon is thought to be in the market for a starter to shore up the rotation.
Gonzalez could help offer stability to a staff that has had nine pitchers start games this season. He struck out a career-high eight without walking a batter but is having trouble with the long ball, giving up three Monday and nine in five starts.
“The kid did a nice job tonight,” Girardi said. “He was successful with his changeup when he was behind in the count, and he was successful expanding the zone when he was ahead of the count”
Raul Ibanez had New York’s other homer with a leadoff shot in the fifth. Suzuki’s drive was his first with New York and he was greeted with a warm reception from fans sitting in right field when he took his position for the eighth.
Garcia tied a season high by allowing nine hits in six innings. He did not walk a batter and struck out two.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)