BALTIMORE — Earlier this week, the Baltimore Orioles were freefalling out of the American League East race, couldn’t win at home and their staunch bullpen was in tatters thanks to a rotation that routinely checked out early.
Suddenly, after winning two straight against the division-leading New York Yankees — including Wednesday night’s 6-3 victory — it’s May again and there’s no need for panic. For the moment, it’s all Natty Bohs and roses at Camden Yards.
The Orioles (25-21) closed out an eight-game homestand that started with a season-worst six straight losses by winning consecutive contests and the series. Incredibly, it was the first time Baltimore had won a series against the Yankees at Camden Yards since April 2009.
They bashed Hiroki Kuroda, both literally and figuratively — hitting two homers, scoring five runs and then chasing the right-hander in the third because of a bruised right calf that he suffered in the second when Manny Machado lined a ball off the 38-year-old’s leg.
Kuroda (6-3) brought a 1.99 ERA into Wednesday night and hadn’t allowed three earned runs in any of his nine outings this season. He gave up three runs in the first inning Wednesday, a solo homer to Nick Markakis (his seventh) and a two-run shot to Chris Davis.
It was Davis’s 14th homer, taking the American League lead back from the Yankees’ Robinson Cano. Davis had four hits Wednesday and is now batting .375 (18 for 48) with five homers and 13 RBI since beginning May in a 2-for-18 slump.
Kuroda lasted until the third when he was pulled after allowing a leadoff double to Adam Jones and a single to Davis. Kuroda had been dealing with soreness in his right leg after the Machado liner earlier in the second.
Matt Wieters then launched the second pitch from reliever Preston Claiborne off the back wall beyond right-center field for his seventh homer of the season. The three-run blast gave the Orioles a 6-1 lead, with all six runs coming via the home run.
The three runs Baltimore scored in Tuesday’s 3-2 victory over the Yankees also were courtesy of the long ball. So their last nine runs, and 10 of 14 in the Yankees series, came on home runs.
It wasn’t the only trend that emerged against the Yankees this week. After Jason Hammel’s two-run, 62 / 3 inning effort Wednesday, the Orioles have had four consecutive quality starts — at least six innings pitched, three runs or fewer allowed. That’s the club’s longest streak of the season for quality starts and it comes after a stretch in which the Orioles’ starter failed to go beyond five innings in six of seven games.
Hammel, the club’s Opening Day starter who has not been crisp for most of the season, didn’t dominate, but he stymied the Yankees offense. He allowed an RBI single to Cano in the third and Curtis Granderson’s first homer of the year in fifth, but no other damage. After Granderson homered, Hammel (6-2) retired seven of the next eight batters before a two-out walk in the seventh ended his night.
As Hammel walked to the dugout, after an outing that tied his longest of the season, many of the announced 26,725 rose to their feet for a standing ovation.
Hammel, who had allowed 17 earned runs in his last three appearances, hadn’t turned in a quality start since April 25 in Oakland.
Brian Matusz entered in the seventh and recorded four straight outs. Darren O’Day allowed a solo homer to David Adams but otherwise preserved the victory. It was another small sigh of relief for the Orioles, whose strong bullpen had struggled this homestand. In the club’s six losses, the relievers posted a combined 7.94 ERA (20 runs in 222 / 3 innings). In their two wins, the bullpen allowed one run in 51 / 3 innings (1.69 ERA).
The Orioles now head to Toronto just three games behind the Yankees. And they’ll have something else to look forward to: The major league debut of last year’s top pick, right-hander Kevin Gausman, who will start against the Blue Jays on Thursday night.
Days ago, the sky seemed to be falling at Camden Yards.
And now it’s just May again, with plenty of baseball remaining.