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Orioles score six runs in fourth inning, cruise to 9-5 victory over the Yankees

NEW YORK -- A key ingredient to the Orioles' formula for winning this season has been hitting home runs. They have relied on it more than any club in the major leagues.

But in their 9-5 victory over the New York Yankees on Wednesday afternoon, the Orioles mounted their best offensive outing in nearly two weeks without a homer — all while ending New York's postseason hopes in front of an announced 46,056 at Yankee Stadium.

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The nine runs were the Orioles' highest offensive output since a 10-6 win over the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on Sept. 10.

After only getting one hit in Monday's series opener — a 5-0 shutout loss — the Orioles recorded 32 hits over the past two games, including 15 on Wednesday. It was the first time in history that the Orioles had 15 or more hits in consecutive games in New York.

The last time the Orioles scored nine or more runs without hitting a home run was May 10, 2013 in a 9-6 win over the Minnesota Twins. The Orioles were 5-for-10 with runners in scoring position Wednesday.

"It's important, especially in the postseason," said shortstop Ryan Flaherty, who started a six-run fourth inning with a two-run double. "Weather's cold, wind's blowing in, kind of like today. There weren't many people who were going to hit the ball through that wind."

The Orioles (95-63) remained 2 1/2 games behind the Los Angeles Angels (98-61) in the race for the best record in the major leagues and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. The Orioles have four games remaining, while the Angels are off Thursday before finishing the season with three games on the road against the Seattle Mariners.

If the Orioles and the Angels finish the season tied after 162 games, the Orioles would gain the top seed because of a better head-to-head record.

Down by three runs early in Wednesday's game, the Orioles — who lead the major leagues with 205 homers — methodically scored six runs in the fourth inning with seven hits, including five singles.

"That's what it takes," said left fielder David Lough, who hit an RBI triple in the fourth and had two RBIs on the day. "But it seems as though hits always come in bunches, and it feels good to get that win. …

"It seems as though, when we hit home runs, we win a lot of ballgames, but today showed that we're capable of just coming up with hits and coming up with runs and getting from scoring position in."

The Orioles are now 13-5 against the Yankees this season and can win all six series against New York this season with a victory Thursday. The win also put the Orioles at 46-26 against the AL East this season. The last time the Orioles finished the season 20 games over .500 versus the division was 1980.

Right-hander Bud Norris, who entered the game with a scoreless streak of 12 1/3 innings, improved his record against the AL East this season to 9-1 with a 2.91 ERA in 14 starts. The Orioles have gone 13-1 in those games.

Norris (15-8) also improved to 4-0 with a 2.73 ERA in four starts against the Yankees this season.

"Everybody talks about the AL East being the division, the best division in baseball, and it elevates my game," Norris said. "I go out there and pitch, and I've learned a lot from the guys here. ... I'm just going to go out there and compete."

Trailing 3-0 entering the fourth, the Orioles sent 11 batters to the plate and had six hits and a walk in their six-run inning.

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Nelson Cruz and Steve Clevenger opened the inning with back-to-back singles off Yankees right-hander Shane Greene (5-4), who then issued a one-out walk to Kelly Johnson to load the bases.

Following a visit to the mound by Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild, Flaherty jumped on the first pitch and lined it off the right-field fence for a two-run double. Nick Markakis followed with a two-out single to right field, scoring two more runs to give the Orioles a 4-3 lead.

The hit parade continued as Lough hit a triple to right field to score Markakis easily, and Adam Jones dropped a bunt to the left of the mound past Greene to score Lough from third base.

"I thought the most impressive hit might have been Adam's bunt," manager Buck Showalter said.

Norris fell behind on Mark Teixeira's two-out RBI single in the first inning. After Teixeira's hit, Norris recorded his next seven outs by strikeout. But in between, he allowed solo homers to Stephen Drew in the second and Chase Headley in the third. After a one-out walk to Drew in the fourth, Norris retired the final eight batters he faced.

The Orioles added three more runs in the eighth. After back-to-back singles by Johnson and Flaherty and a sacrifice bunt by Caleb Joseph, reliever David Phelps intentionally walked Markakis to load the bases with one out.

Lough knocked in one run with a sacrifice fly to right field, and Jones and Cruz each singled in a run to give the Orioles a 9-3 lead. The Yankees (81-77) cut the Orioles' lead to three in the eighth on Teixeira's two-run homer off Brad Brach.

Trying to get work for his bullpen, Showalter used five relievers after Norris came out of the game, including four different pitchers in the eighth. Right-hander Darren O'Day recorded the final four outs for his fourth save of the season.

After the game, Showalter said he didn't get any special satisfaction from ending the Yankees' postseason hopes.

"We got an outside shot of catching Anaheim," Showalter said. "But you don't ever take some satisfaction out of that. When we came in here the first time earlier in the year, we knew and here they are in it with four, five games left to play.

"That's quite a testament to them and the challenges that [manager] Joe [Girardi] and the staff and the organization has had with a lot of injuries. To stay this engaged this long was pretty impressive."

eencina@baltsun.com

twitter.com/EddieInTheYard

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