NEW YORK -- Much of the attention heading into the Orioles' series finale against the New York Yankees on Wednesday night shined squarely on Japanese sensation Masahiro Tanaka making his first start in pinstripes at Yankee Stadium, but the Orioles managed to steal the New York spotlight with a late-inning rally fitting of a Broadway crescendo.
The Orioles broke open a tie game with two runs in the ninth inning off Yankees interim closer Shawn Kelley — a rally fueled by the bottom of the lineup — to propel themselves to a 5-4 win in front of an announced crowd of 39,412.
The win not only gave the Orioles (4-5) their first series win of the young season heading into Thursday's off day, but their first series victory at Yankee Stadium since Aug. 31-Sept. 2, 2012.
“It's going to be a happy flight,” said closer Tommy Hunter, who converted his third save in as many chances. “Any time you win on a get-away day, you enjoy the flight back home. We've got a day off tomorrow, recoup and get back out there on” Friday.
In the end, the game was less about Tanaka than it was about the Orioles getting a much-needed win to complete the series in New York and send the club back to Baltimore for a six-game homestand with back-to-back victories for the first time this season.
“We don't care,” Orioles center fielder Adam Jones said of the buzz about Tanaka, who signed a seven-year, $155 million deal with the Yankees in the offseason. “We got the W. That's all that matters. … We had some good at-bats against Tanaka. He's got good stuff. You can't deny that. He's a strike-thrower, but we had good at-bats, and we fought him. … He went out there and battled for seven innings, and we battled him also. We had some tough at-bats off him also, and we didn't make anything easy.
“He's just another pitcher in their rotation. He's just another guy we have to go through to get to where we want to be.”
After opening the game 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position — the only hit being Jonathan Schoop's three-run homer off Tanaka — the Orioles were 3-for-5 in the ninth.
“This team continues to grind,” Jones said. “You look at the bottom of our lineup and what they did again. … It's a collective effort. This lineup isn't going to make it easy on anybody, and we're going to grind it out.”
The Orioles' first four batters of the top of the ninth reached base in a rally started by No. 8 hitter Ryan Flaherty's leadoff double. Nick Markakis' RBI single drove in Flaherty, and Chris Davis added a sacrifice fly to score the eventual game-winning run off Kelley.
Hunter allowed the first two batters on base in the ninth and gave up a run on former Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts' sacrifice fly in an eight-pitch at-bat, but he induced a 6-4-3 double play to end the game.
“It was interesting,” Hunter said. “Definitely made that a little harder than you'd typically want that to be. … Got to try to get out of the situation. B-Rob, you can't walk a guy to load the bases with nobody out, so just attack him. And a nice double play to end the game.”
Their ninth-inning rally came after the Orioles bullpen stranded Brett Gardner on third base after his leadoff double in the bottom of the eighth to keep the game tied.
After right-hander Evan Meek, who was opening his second inning of relief in the eighth, allowed the double, Gardner moved to third base on Derek Jeter's sacrifice bunt.
But left-hander Brian Matusz entered and retired two of the Yankees' key offseason acquisitions. Matusz induced a popup from Jacoby Ellsbury in foul territory, and after an intentional walk to Carlos Beltran, got Brian McCann to fly out to end the inning.
“Regardless of who is up there, you want to go up there and get some outs,” Matusz said. “But in those situations, getting Jacoby and McCann, it doesn't matter who is in the box. Got to get outs one way or the other.”
The Orioles struck first on Schoop's first homer of 2014, a towering three-run shot into the second deck in left field in the second inning, but mounted little else against Tanaka.
Tanaka struck out 10 Orioles batters over seven innings and allowed just three singles and a walk after Schoop's home run.
Orioles right-hander Miguel Gonzalez couldn't hold an early 3-0 lead, but he gave the club its second quality start of the season, allowing three runs — including solo homers to Beltran and Kelly Johnson in the second inning — and seven hits over six innings.
“First I was a little up, a couple of my pitches I couldn't finish,” Gonzalez said. “But then toward the end [catcher Matt Wieters] told me, ‘Just be yourself and make your pitches and try not to do too much,' and the last two innings were great.”
Through the first nine games of the season only Gonzalez and Chris Tillman — who gave up one run in 8 1/3 innings in Detroit on Sunday — have given the Orioles quality starts.
Schoop took a 1-0 slider up in the zone about 10 rows into the second deck in left field to give the Orioles a 3-0 lead in the second inning.
“We saw the video [on Tanaka}, but in that at-bat, he just made a mistake,” Schoop said. “He left a slider up, and I put the barrel out, and the ball went out. He just made a mistake there, and then he started to keep the ball low. In that at-bat, he threw the slider one time, and then he threw one up.”
Schoop, who had just two hits in his first 18 at-bats this season, is starting to heat up at the bottom of the batting order. His homer was his fourth hit in his past nine at-bats. He finished the game 2-for-4 with two runs scored.
“You just try to get out of his way and give him a little guidance here and there and know that he's got good teammates around him,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said of Schoop. “The thing about it is, he defends well while we're waiting for him to figure some things out, and I've said that a lot of times. That's the key with the young players. If they can defend, I can wait on the other stuff.”