At the end of the year, whether the Orioles end with a trophy or suffer a playoff defeat along the way, this will be one of the series that will define the season.

This was the first edition of Orioles-Yankees, in front of a crowd of 23,184 on a steamy Monday night. It’s just another opponent, the team says, but the Yankees always bring out a competitive fire. They’ll meet 12 more times this season, but this one would set the tone.

The Orioles needed a win after dropping two of three to the Athletics, each loss by just a run. And they got just that, beating the Yankees 2-0. They scored on Gunnar Henderson’s lead-off home run — his 10th of the year, tying him with Mike Trout for most in MLB — then on an error in the bottom of the eighth.

“He’s 22 years old, it’s pretty scary how good he is going to be, how good he is already,” manager Brandon Hyde said of Henderson.

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Gunnar Henderson points to the sky as he rounds the bases after homering in the first inning. (Ulysses Muñoz)

The Orioles had Grayson Rodriguez on the mound, coming off one of the worst starts of his career when he allowed seven earned runs in 4 1/3 innings in Anaheim. Everything was off for him that night, from his fastball, which he missed down the middle, to his off-speed pitches, which caused the most damage.

He needed this to show that he’s not the pitcher he was a year ago, who would let one bad outing spill into another, leading to him being optioned after 10 starts. He still wasn’t his best, but he kept the Yankees scoreless in 5 2/3 innings as he threw a career-high 101 pitches. He allowed five hits and three walks but stranded all of the runners.

“Anytime you keep them off the board it’s a good night,” Rodriguez said. “A little wild trying to find the strike zone, obviously had some traffic there. I’m just trying to limit that next time.”

The real test for the Orioles, who were operating a one-run game without closer Craig Kimbrel due to back tightness, would come after Rodriguez left the game. They passed it first to Cionel Pérez, activated that afternoon after a right oblique strain, who took over in the sixth with two runners on. Ryan Mountcastle saved the day there, coming up with the snag to end the inning.

Pérez again got the ball in the seventh and gave up a lead-off single, but managed to induce a force out and a ground out before he was replaced by Yennier Cano. Cano got the last out, then pitched a 1-2-3 eighth.

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The Orioles had a two-run lead heading into the ninth, but this was where it all went wrong over the weekend against the A’s. Leads on Friday and Sunday evaporated, with Kimbrel blowing the save each time.

They went closer by committee, just like they did at the end of last year when Félix Bautista injured his elbow and eventually needed Tommy John surgery. Once again, it was Cano and left-handed pitcher Danny Coulombe who carried the load.

Danny Coulombe delivers a pitch against the New York Yankees Monday night. (Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Banner)

Cano got the ball again to start the ninth and matched up against right-handed hitter Gleyber Torres. Torres hit a single, and, as planned, Cano was replaced by Coulombe.

“What can you say about Yennier Cano?” Hyde said. “Won us the game for me. Just four of the biggest outs of the game against a tough part of their order.”

Coulombe got the first save of his career right after Bautista was hurt, and was now going for his first of the season.

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Two quick fly outs and the fans at Camden Yards were on their feet chanting. Anthony Volpe hit a grounder to second base for the last out of the night and the save belonged to Coulombe.

“It’s fun,” Coulombe said. “Anytime you can pitch in a high-leverage situation, it’s why you play this game. When Kimbrel is down, it’s going to be a team effort.”

The Baltimore Orioles congratulate pitcher Danny Coulombe (middle) who recorded his first save of the season against the New York Yankees Monday night. (Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Banner)

The timeline for Kimbrel is unknown, but this bullpen strategy worked, at least for one night.

“Everyone is up for it,” Coulombe said. “Every guy in this bullpen is here for a reason.”

Danielle Allentuck covers the Orioles for The Baltimore Banner. She previously reported on the Rockies for the Denver Gazette and general sports assignments for The New York Times as part of its fellowship program. A Maryland native, Danielle grew up in Montgomery County and graduated from Ithaca College.

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