BALTIMORE - The Orioles aren't expecting things to be easy the rest of the way.
Not with three teams bunched near the top of the AL East, six clubs within three games of each other in the wild-card hunt, and 25 games to play.
Friday night's game against New York marked the first game of that stretch. One night after beating the Yankees in a madcap finish, the Orioles fell behind early and couldn't recover as the Bronx Bombers tallied three home runs and held off Baltimore 8-5 in front of 40,861 at Camden Yards, a win that put New York back on top of the division by one game.
The Orioles (77-61) gave up three homers one night after launching six of their own to win the first of this four-game series 10-6. Baltimore starter Wei-Yin Chen gave up all three bombs, which counted for seven runs, and only lasted 4 2-3 innings. It was just the fourth time in 28 starts Chen failed to get through the fifth.
If Baltimore wants to stay in playoff contention, quality outings from its starters is likely the key to success. That didn't happen Friday night, but the rookie Chen (12-9) said he feels fine at this stage of the season.
"I'm not tired at all," Chen said through an interpreter. "The last couple outings I feel strong physically. And mentally I feel strong, too."
Chen felt the sting of Alex Rodriguez's bat in the fifth inning. Rodriguez hit a two-run blast to left-center in the fifth inning, his 300th homer with the Yankees (78-60) and 645th of his career, and New York was in command up 7-0.
The Orioles finally got to Yankees starter Phil Hughes in the sixth. Adam Jones put a charge into the hometown fans with a 438-foot, three-run blast into the Yanks' bullpen, his 29th home run of the year and fifth in the last 11 games.
It was the 33rd homer allowed by Hughes (14-12) this season, tops in the majors, but the New York right-hander tossed six innings and struck out five for the win. The Yanks used five pitchers to get the win and stay in first place - New York has been in first every day since June 12.
Other than Jones' blast, and solo shots from Robert Andino and Manny Machado, New York's pitchers cooled Baltimore's bats Friday night.
Mark Reynolds, who had eight homers and 16 RBIs in seven games coming into Friday, went 0 for 4 with a pair of strikeouts. Chris Davis, who smacked a homer Thursday night in the win, also went 0 for 4, as did leadoff hitter Nick Markakis.
The loss dampened some of the excitement surrounding the series, but Orioles manager Buck Showalter said his players weren't feeling dejected despite trailing big in the fifth inning.
"You just have to tip your hat to their bullpen," Showalter said. "They came in and did a good job. But it wasn't because the 'want-to' wasn't there. There was a lot of energy there again, the fans were great. Just a disappointment we couldn't return the favor."
Russell Martin's towering three-run homer to left field in the fourth gave New York a 3-0 lead, and three batters later former Orioles outfielder Steve Pearce smacked a two-run shot that just made it past the glove of Nate McLouth in left.
McLouth leaped at the wall and tried to snare the ball but it landed in the seats and the Yankees led 5-0.
"I had it. And it was unfortunate because it's a run," McLouth said. "And I haven't seen the replay but something hit my glove. And I'm sure it was someone's hand or arm or something like that."
McLouth made a leaping grab to rob Nick Swisher of a would-be homer in the ninth, but the Yankees held on and regained sole possession of first place in the East.
CC Sabathia is New York's expected starter for tonight's game while Baltimore counters with Joe Saunders in a matchup of veteran lefties. The prospect of responding with another win was evident in the Orioles' clubhouse even with Friday's loss still fresh.
"You ain't gonna win them all, but we're gonna go out there and battle every day," Andino said. "And tomorrow is another day."