NEW YORK -- Mark Reynolds started the Orioles' crucial series against the New York Yankees by telling skeptics of Baltimore's playoff chances to "keep doubting."
By the time the series ended Sunday, with the Orioles' 8-3 win at Yankee Stadium, Reynolds had helped eliminate many of the reasons to doubt.
Reynolds hit two homers for the second time in the series, and the Orioles piled on against seven Yankees relievers, while getting a strong effort from their own bullpen after starter Chris Tillman was forced from the game early with an injury.
Baltimore lost Tillman after just three innings due to right elbow soreness, but Randy Wolf (1-0) made his Orioles debut with 3 1/3 innings of one-run ball, and three relievers shut out the Yankees from there.
The Orioles not only stunned the Yankees by taking two of three to move within two games of the AL East lead, buy they dominated New York, leaving the perennial playoff team suddenly facing its own critics.
"We need to play better baseball," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said when asked if he were concerned a 10-game lead in July had been whittled to two. "I'm asked every day what my level of concern is. The concern is, you play better baseball, not where you are in the standings, because we're still in control of our destination. The concern is we need to play better. Offensively, defensively and pitching, all things."
Baltimore has not had such concerns lately, winning seven of its last nine. The Orioles claimed three series wins at Yankee Stadium this season for the first time since 1976, earning a late-season series win against the team Orioles manager Buck Showalter called "the measuring stick for a long time.
"It's a tough place to play because they're good players and they're a good team," the former Yankees manager said of Yankee Stadium. "Hopefully, we're finding that we're becoming a little better."
Reynolds had said Friday night the Orioles didn't care about doubters, because the team just kept "doing the little things that win baseball games."
On Sunday, as they did Friday, they did the little things, big things and in-between things.
In the series, Reynolds went 5-for-10 with four runs, four homers and seven RBI, reaching base in seven of 12 plate appearances. He also finished off a spectacular double play defensively.
Reynolds' second homer of Sunday's game was a three-run shot to chase starter Phil Hughes (13-12) in the top of the sixth and cap a four-run inning, giving the Orioles a 5-3 lead.
Through five, Hughes (13-12) had given up only Reynolds' first homer, a solo shot in the fifth. But he exited four batters into the sixth, having allowed five runs on eight hits.
Girardi left Hughes in even though Hughes had already given up a run and put on three baserunners with a walk and two singles. The manager said he didn't like the potential matchups down the line if he took Hughes out, and he grew testy when pressed whether he really thought the tiring starter had been the best choice.
"That was my decision to leave him in there," Girardi said, his voice rising slightly. "He'd struck him out and given up a home run to him. Reynolds is a guy that's going to strike out his share. There are different things you can do to him. (Hughes) hung a breaking ball. My other choice is to bring (Cody) Eppley in there and then to bring in Boone (Logan) for the left-hander and then I've got to bring in another right-hander.
"I felt better leaving Hughes against Reynolds than what I would have done after Boone. If it's one out, it's a different story, but there's no outs."
Reynolds said he was just thinking sacrifice fly with runners on first and third and no one out, but Hughes hung a curveball. He hesitated when asked if he were surprised Hughes remained in the game, before saying, "I'm not a manager." He mentioned that Eppley is a "ground-ball guy," which would have been conducive to getting a double play.
Said Hughes: "The wheels just came off. Everything was flat. Two home runs to Reynolds were killer."
The second blast wiped out the last of what had been a 3-1 Yankees lead, bolstered not by any of their stars, but September call-up Chris Dickerson, who hit a two-run shot for New York in the second. Dickerson also saved some runs with a pair of spectacular catches in center field, where he started for Curtis Granderson, out due to tendinitis in his right hamstring.
In the bottom of the sixth, the Orioles showed off the flashy defense that's helped them emerge as a playoff contender for the first time in 15 years. With a runner on first and one out, Russell Martin hit what looked to be a single up the middle, but shortstop J.J. Hardy dived to his left, flipped to second and Robert Andino fired to first.
The throw was wide, but Reynolds fully extended himself, just barely keeping a toe on the bag for an inning-ending double play.
Girardi took advantage of his expanded roster to do plenty of his famed mixing and matching, using eight pitchers by the time he was done.
Least effective was Joba Chamberlain, who was saved by Dickerson's leaping catch at the wall to rob Adam Jones of at least an extra-base hit in the seventh. However, Chamberlain allowed two runs in the eighth to give Baltimore a 7-3 lead. Derek Lowe gave up the final run.
Despite Dickerson's exploits, Girardi pinch-hit for him in the bottom of the seventh, going to Andruw Jones with a runner on first and the Yankees still down 5-3.
Girardi said he wanted to go with a right-handed hitter against the lefty Wolf with a shot to tie the game with a homer. The Orioles countered with righty Luis Ayala, but Girardi said he liked Jones' numbers against him. Ayala, who sported a "Buck the Yankees" T-shirt after Friday night's game, got Jones on a fly to right and Derek Jeter on a double play to end the inning.
NOTES: Yankees left-hander Andy Pettitte (fractured left ankle) threw a 35-pitch bullpen session Sunday, saying he was "over the hump" in his rehab. Girardi said the Yankees have begun planning a return schedule for Pettitte, but he didn't offer a specific date. ... Girardi said after the game Alex Rodriguez (fractured left hand) would return from the disabled list Monday. ... Granderson could sit Monday as well, but he might return after that. ... Tillman said he didn't feel pain and didn't think he would miss time, but he was expected to undergo an MRI. ... Orioles right-hander Jason Hammel (arthroscopic right knee surgery) threw five scoreless innings and allowed three hits while striking out seven in his first rehab appearance Saturday night for Class A Frederick. He will be evaluated after his bullpen session to see if he can start Thursday's game against the Yankees.
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