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Yankees threaten in 9th, but Orioles prevail with 5-4 win

BaseballMiguel GonzalezBaltimore OriolesNew York YankeesNick MarkakisJim Johnson

Miguel Gonzalez was certain not to get blinded by the bright lights of Yankee Stadium.

The 28-year-old rookie's fifth career major league start came in the Bronx on Monday night against one of the most potent lineups in baseball, but Gonzalez took himself back to his first career start 24 days ago, pitching across the country in front of a big crowd in Anaheim, just an hour away from his hometown against an Angels organization that drafted him.

"I did a great job in Anaheim and they had a good crowd," he said. "A great team, too, offensively. And I stayed with the same mentality and brought it into the game."

His mentality was to throw strikes, pound the lower part of the strike zone aggressively and make the Yankees beat him.

And in his first outing against the Yankees, he kept their bats at bay through six innings, guiding the Orioles to a 5-4 win over New York in front of an announced crowd of 43,052 at Yankees Stadium.

Gonzalez limited the top five hitters in the Yankees lineup to just one hit in 15 at-bats. Seven of his career-high eight strikeouts were also against those five batters.

"I thought he was outstanding," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "We talked a little bit yesterday about attacking them and just being aggressive. You fiddle around with the strike zone, you're going to have some problems, but he showed [catcher Matt Wieters] that he had command of some other pitches that he could slow them down a little bit and they couldn't sit on one pitch, and he commanded the ball enough on both sides of the plate.

"Good tempo, strike thrower," Showalter added. "You look at his walk totals and you watch him pitch, you don't think of him not having command, but when he's carrying his secondary stuff like that, he's got a chance to give us the outing that he did tonight."

The Orioles have won three of four games at Yankee Stadium this season -- they took two of three here from April 30 to May 2 -- and are now just 6 1/2 games behind the Yankees in the American League East. The Orioles (54-49) are now just two games out of the AL wild-card spots.

"We know where we stand and we know who we're up against," right fielder Nick Markakis said. "We just have to take it day by day, game by game. We won that last game at home and to come in here and take one to start off the series is definitely big. We're starting off on the right foot, and now we just need to come in tomorrow and duplicate it."

After Monday night's win, the Orioles are 20-6 in one-run games this season, including 13-2 on the road.

Gonzalez rebounded from the worst game of his major league career on Wednesday, when he gave up a career-high seven runs on seven hits and lasted just 2 2/3 innings in a 10-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays, a game in which he was pitching sick.

"That's part of it," Gonzalez said of pitching sick. "The other side is I didn't have any of my pitches, and by doing that, things are not going to go well. Tonight, I had all my pitches working and Wieters did a great job back there. Our bullpen did a great job. Got the win."

On Monday, he had allowed just two runs and four hits when he took the mound in the seventh inning -- keeping the Yankees off balance with his change-up -- before allowing back-to-back solo homers to left-handed hitters Eric Chavez and Ichiro Suzuki and leaving the game.

Gonzalez won despite allowing three homers Monday -- Raul Ibanez hit a solo shot in the fifth. In five major league starts, he has allowed nine homers.

"Yeah, I don't know if it was late in the game and he was getting a little tired and leaving balls up but early on he was pounding the zone down and it was working," Markakis said. "He had some guys swinging through some pitches. He kept them off balance all night."

Gonzalez is 3-0 with a 2.93 ERA in five games (three starts) on the road this season.

The Orioles, who scored more than four runs in just three of their first 13 games following the All-Star break, have now scored more than four runs in four of their last five.

The top two hitters in the Orioles' lineup, Markakis and J.J. Hardy, were a combined 5-for-9 with three RBIs and both drove in runs in the seventh inning, giving the Orioles a 5-2 lead.

No. 9 hitter Omar Quintanilla scored a run and drove in another while extending his personal hit streak to six games. Orioles third baseman Wilson Betemit's solo homer in the third opened the scoring.

Leading 3-2 after sacrifice flies by Quintanilla and Markakis in the fifth, Markakis' two-out double off left-handed reliever Boone Logan, a ball that hit off the bottom of the right-center field wall, drove in Quintanilla. Hardy then drove in Markakis with a run-scoring single to make it 5-2.

Gonzalez left with a 5-4 lead after 111 pitches. Showalter chose to stick with Gonzalez against the lefties Ibanez, Chavez and Suzuki. Gonzalez retired Ibanez, but Chavez and Suzuki both homered into the second deck in right field.

The Yankees put the game-winning run on second base with two outs in the ninth against struggling closer Jim Johnson -- Nick Swisher was on third after a leadoff double, and Ichiro was on second -- but Johnson converted his 31st save by striking out Russell Martin to end the game. It was Johnson's first outing since blowing a save Friday and allowing six runs in one third of1/3 inning against Oakland.

"It's good to get out back out," Johnson said. "Being a reliever you have to have a short memory. So it was good to get back out there. I kind of wanted to get out there the next day, but it didn't work out."

eencina@baltsun.com

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BaseballMiguel GonzalezBaltimore OriolesNew York YankeesNick MarkakisJim Johnson
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