BALTIMORE – Brett Gardner saved the Yankees from what would have been among their most devastating defeats of the season.
Which says something.
After Chad Green, who was worried about the long ball all season, gave up a two-out, two-run explosion by the Austin Hays in the eighth inning that put the Yankees behind a run, Gardner’s single helped with two runs in the ninth them taking a 4-3 win over the Orioles Wednesday night ahead of 10,402 at Camden Yards.
It was a critical comeback victory for the Yankees (82-64), who remained right in the thick of the closely-knit American League wild-card race. The Blue Jays and Red Sox, who both won earlier in the day, held percentage points ahead of the Yankees, who have won three in a row.
Righty Tyler Wells, part of one of the worst bullpens in the game, tried – and failed – to keep the lead he had gained. He went Luke Voit to start the ninth inning and Tyler Wade came in to pinch races with Gleyber Torres at the plate. The second baseman, who made another mistake in the field in the eighth, put a single to center, his third time reaching base in the game. Gary Sanchez flew to center, and with Gardner at the plate, Wade and Torres performed a double steal. Gardner then hit a 1-and-2 shooter to center, giving the Yankees a 4-3 lead and improving the 38-year-old outfielder, who had three hits, to 12 for his last 33 (.364).
Aroldis Chapman, who put in a third day in a row, hit two in a perfect ninth for his 27th save in 31 chances.
Green, who hit a pointless seventh after taking over for Nestor Cortes Jr., could not hold the 2-1 lead he took into the inning. Austin Wynns started with a single and advanced to second place when Torres abused Cedric Mullins’ soft sinking lining and had to settle for first out. With Ryan Mountcastle on the plate, a wild pitch moved Wynns to third. Mountcastle chased one out of the zone by striking out, but Hays, who homerated in the sixth off Cortes to put the Orioles (47-98) on the board, hammered a 0-and-2, 97 mph fastball to the left, his 20 . homer shockingly put his team ahead 3-2.
Green’s implosion helped cost Cortes, who came 2-2 with one with a 2.70 ERA in 18 games (10 starts), a win. The right-hander, whose fastball barely ticks over 90km / h, but who keeps opposing teams out of balance with his range of speeds, deliveries and arm angles, was as good as he has been a Yankee. The left allowed a run, three hits and two walks over 6 1/3 innings, where he hit a career high of 11 (his previous high was seven).
John Means, the one decent Orioles starter-he came on 5-7, but with a 3.42 ERA-allowed two runs and four strokes over 5 2/3 innings.
The Yankees, after retiring in order in a 15-pitch first, were robbed of two runs in the second.
Torres worked a two-out walk, and Sanchez followed by launching one to center that off bat turned out to be leaving the ballpark. But Mullins, the midfielder, perfectly timed his jump on the wall and brought the ball back into play for the third out.
Gio Urshela hit an inning later, neither Mullins nor anyone else had a chance to catch.
Gardner started the third with a single and improved the 38-year-old to 10 for his last 30, and Urshela, in a 6-for-38 (.158) roller coaster, bludged a 1-and-2 curve ball to the deep left center , his 12th homer makes it 2-0.
Cortes ran his strikeout total to 10 when he beat Mullins, who swung in a sinker to start the sixth, increasing the total to 11 as he fell for a side-arm delivery that resulted in Mountcastle waving helplessly to a shooter at 70 mph.
But the following hitter, Hays, jumped on a change on the first pitch and sent it out to left-center to make it 2-1.