BALTIMORE — If you weren’t certain before, Wednesday night at Camden Yards confirmed it: The American League East is officially on its ear.
It was the Orioles who bided their time against a filthy starter, battered the underbelly of the opposition’s bullpen and moved further away in the division standings.
With a 5-3 comeback victory paced by eighth-inning home runs from Jonathan Schoop and Adam Jones, the Orioles pulled a Yankee on the New York Yankees. And now the Orioles (69-50) sit eight games ahead of the Yankees (61-58) in their quest for their first AL East crown in 17 years.
Even with Tuesday’s rainout shortening the series to two games, the Orioles now have won eight consecutive series and have moved to 30-19 against division foes this season.
It was a strange juxtaposition, because it was the Yankees that were obviously desperate for a win. It showed in MangerJoe Girardi’s decision to bring in his best reliever, all-star right-hander Dellin Betances, in the sixth with a one-run lead and try to squeeze three innings out of him.
The move paid off initially, with Betances striking out the side in the sixth after allowing a leadoff single. He was perfect in the seventh and was sent out again in the eighth. After getting one more out and tying his career high with 21 / 3 innings pitched, Betances challenged Schoop, who slammed a pitch just over the left field wall to tie the game at 2-2.
It was Schoop’s 11th homer this season. He is now batting .380 (11-for-29) with 11 RBI against New York in his career.
Reliever Shawn Kelley (2-4) entered for Betances and allowed a one-out single to Nick Markakis, walked Chris Davis and then served up a three-run homer to Jones.
Jones ambushed Kelley’s first-pitch slider for his 23rd homer of the season — causing an ear-splitting eruption from the announced crowd of 37,587.
Staked to a three-run lead, closer Zach Britton allowed an RBI groundout in the ninth but got Stephen Drew to ground out for his 25th save. Darren O’Day (4-1) was credited with the win after throwing a scoreless eighth in relief of a tremendous outing by Chris Tillman.
The Orioles are now 8-3 in 11 games against the Yankees this season. They still meet eight more times, but the Orioles need to win only two of those to capture their first season-series victory over the Yankees since 1997, which was also the last time they won the AL East title.
The Orioles were flummoxed by Yankees starter Michael Pineda through four perfect innings before Nelson Cruz’s leadoff double in the fifth.
— Baltimore Sun