NEW YORK—The last time the Orioles took three series at Yankee Stadium in a single season, just two players on the team’s current 25-man roster had even been born.
The Orioles’ struggles in the Bronx run deep. And their fortunes didn’t change when the Yankees moved into a new home across East 161st Street.
The newest chapter was written Sunday, when the Orioles’ 8-3 win over the Yankees’ gave them three series wins in the Bronx for the first time since 1976. They left New York winning six of nine contests here this season, as many as the past three seasons combined. They went 6-21 in the first three years at the new Yankee Stadium.
Led by the suddenly sizzling bat of first baseman Mark Reynolds, who became the first visiting player to record two multi-homer games in the same series in nearly a decade, the Orioles (74-59) cut the Yankees’ American League East lead to a mere two games in front of an announced crowd of 46,501.
“We are a different team,” Reynolds said. “We are not the same guys that were here last year or the year before. We are playing with a lot of confidence and we are just having fun. You look at a lot of young guys in here, they don’t even know they are in a playoff race probably.”
The Orioles have now won seven of their past nine games and 19 of their past 27. Their .561 winning percentage on the road — the O’s are 37-29 away from Camden Yards — is the best in the American League. They outscored the Yankees (76-57) in the Bronx this season by a 49-32 margin.
“It’s a tough place to play because they’re good players and they’re a good team,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “Hopefully, we’re finding that we’re becoming a little better. [The Yankees] have been the measuring stick for a long time.”
If the Yankees are the measuring stick, the Orioles match up well — even on an afternoon when they lost starting pitcher Chris Tillman with right elbow stiffness after three innings.
Reynolds became the first visiting player since Boston’s Davis Ortiz on July 4-5, 2003 to record two two-homer games at Yankee Stadium in the same series. He also became the first Oriole to have two multi-homer games in the same series against the Yankees since Doug DeCinces on May 25 and 27, 1981 at Memorial Stadium.
Both of Reynolds’ homers came off Yankees starter Phil Hughes, who entered the day with a major league-leading 10 wins at Yankee Stadium and a 6-0 record and 1.62 ERA in his past seven starts in the Bronx.
His three-run shot in the sixth — which gave the Orioles a 5-3 lead and landed in the left-field bleachers of Yankee Stadium — silenced the crowd quickly and turned the momentum in the game.
“I think it definitely took the life out of the stadium a little bit,” Reynolds said. “And that’s what it does. That’s what it does to fans and it’s just one of those things where you give us the lead and let our pitchers go out there and throw strikes and get some key outs for us.”
Reynolds, who now has 16 homers on the season, has hit half of them since Aug. 6. In that 23-game span, Reynolds is hitting .320 with 13 extra-base hits, 14 runs, 16 RBIs and 16 walks. In the three-game series against the Yankees, he reached base seven times in 13 plate appearances
Newly acquired veteran left-hander Randy Wolf replaced Tillman — who returned to Baltimore and will have a precautionary MRI on Monday — and allowed just one run over 3 1/3 innings in his Orioles debut.
“I’ve said it a few times already,” said Wolf, who was making just his second relief appearance since 2002. “I think we’re the best team that nobody talks about. There’s a lot of teams that are in the playoff hunt that people are talking about, but this team just finds a way to win and that’s exciting. I’ve been part of teams that just find ways to win.”
Tillman, who had won six of his past seven decisions, struggled with his command early and fell behind 2-0 after a walk was followed by a two-run homer by Chris Dickerson, who was making his first start of the season in place of injured center fielder Curtis Granderson.
The Orioles’ bullpen recovered from a rocky afternoon Saturday, when it blew a seventh-inning lead in a difficult-to-swallow 4-3 loss to the Yankees. Four relievers combined to hold the Yankees to one run over six innings as the Orioles improved to 58-0 when leading after seven innings.
Luis Ayala relieved Wolf with runners on first and second in the seventh in a two-run game, but induced a 6-3 double-play ball from Derek Jeter.
“I told you in spring training,” said Ayala, who pitched for the Yankees last season. “We have a great bunch of players. There’s no [big] names, but there’s men. We’ve done the little things, scored enough runs to keep us in games. We’re winning the games. I think we’re playing much better. We started slowly in the start of the second half, but now we’re playing some great baseball. I think it’s a great feeling. It’s a great time to do some great things.”
Reynolds led the way offensively with his fourth three-hit game of the year — and his 17th two-homer game of his career. Reynolds’ first homer came in the fifth, a mammoth solo shot to left that landed about 20 rows deep into the outfield bleachers.
Nick Markakis’ two-run single — the last of his three hits on the day — past a drawn-in infield capped a three-run eighth inning that gave the Orioles an 8-3 lead and put an exclamation point on a memorable weekend.
“It’s a different year, right?” Markakis said. “We’ve got a good group of guys here. We get down early [in a] tough stadium to come back in. This and Fenway are the two toughest parks to come down from a deficit. We’re just sticking in there. Our pitching’s been doing great. Tilly went down early, Wolf did a great job. Our bullpen as usual, they do a good job. We score some runs for them, good things happen.”