NEW YORK --As much as the Orioles' bats were struggling going into their series finale against the New York Yankees, it only took one inning for their fortune to change — and for a season set for doom to suddenly be rejuvenated.
The Orioles were just nine outs away from being swept out of the Bronx on Sunday afternoon before a seven-run outburst in the seventh inning propelled them to a much needed 7-3 win over the New York Yankees before an announced 40,361.
"A seven-run seventh, that's nice," said shortstop J.J. Hardy, whose three-run homer gave the Orioles a lead they wouldn't relinquish. "We were a little flat. We could all see it. We could all feel it. That was big for us. Hopefully, that jump-starts our September."
The rally snapped an 18-inning scoreless streak that dated back to the sixth inning of Friday's series opener.
With the victory, the Orioles (72-63) took back third place in the American League East by a half game after losing it to the Yankees (72-64) following Saturday's defeat.
The Orioles have lost four of their first six on this nine-game, three-city road trip, but they arrive for the final stop in Cleveland still very much in the playoff picture. The Tampa Bay Rays' loss to the Oakland Athletics on Sunday put the Orioles just three games back of the AL's second wild-card spot with 27 games remaining.
"Scoring seven runs in one inning on Sept. 1, we hope it bodes well for a good September, because we're going to need it," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "It's a good way to start the month. … [There's] another challenge in Cleveland [on Monday]. It's not for the faint of heart. This isn't a situation for the weak of knees, and our guys aren't."
Sunday, the Orioles overcame a three-run deficit and an early exit by left-hander Wei-Yin Chen, who lasted just four innings after issuing a career-high five walks.
The Orioles bullpen, which had posted a 6.33 ERA on the road trip heading into Sunday, tossed five scoreless innings to keep the team in the game until the bats awoke. Rookie right-hander Kevin Gausman — working on consecutive days for what he said was the first time since Little League — tossed two scoreless innings, striking out three and allowing just one hit to earn his second major league win.
"That's something I try to do, hold them right there," said Gausman (2-3). "With how good our offense is, it's just a matter of time. They'll come around, so just try to hold them off as much as we could and hopefully our bats will click, and they did."
The Orioles sent 10 batters to the plate in the seventh, beating the Yankees with both power and patience. Hardy and center fielder Adam Jones each hit three-run homers. After Hardy's homer, the Orioles put two men aboard on a bunt single by No. 9 hitter Brian Roberts and a walk by Nick Markakis before Jones' 28th home run gave the Orioles a 7-3 lead.
Yankees starter Andy Pettitte held the Orioles to just four singles over six scoreless innings before the Orioles rallied in the seventh.
Left fielder Michael Morse, who was 2-for-4 in his Orioles debut, and designated hitter Danny Valencia opened the inning with back-to-back singles to chase Pettitte from the game.
"Pettitte was dominant for pretty much all game," Morse said. "He's not going to give you much to hit. He's a real tough pitcher. We got a couple things going right there and things went our way."
Catcher Matt Wieters snapped the Orioles' scoreless streak by slapping a 1-1 pitch from reliever Shawn Kelley to center field to score Morse. Hardy then took a first-pitch delivery from Kelley the opposite way. The ball just cleared the right field fence — and the glove of leaping right fielder Curtis Granderson — to give the Orioles a 4-3 lead.
After Roberts and Markakis reached against left-hander Boone Logan, Jones hit a three-run blast to straightaway center off right-hander Joba Chamberlain, giving the Orioles their best offensive production in a week.
"It was really the whole lineup that inning [that] did their part, and it was good," Hardy said. "It was big."
Chen battled with his control throughout the afternoon. He survived a 26-pitch first inning without allowing a run despite loading the bases on Brett Gardner's leadoff double and back-to-back two-out walks to Alfonso Soriano and Alex Rodriguez. He seemed to rebound with a six-pitch second inning, but Soriano's two-out single in the third scored Gardner, who led off the inning with his second double.
Chen issued three walks in the fourth inning, including a bases-loaded pass to Gardner that forced in a run. The Yankees went up 3-0 on Derek Jeter's sacrifice fly to right.
Over his past two starts — coming in Boston and New York — Chen has struggled mightily, unable to get into the fifth inning both times. Over a combined 7 2/3 innings, he has allowed 11 runs on 12 hits with eight walks and 10 strikeouts.
"It's not like they were centering him up or anything," Showalter said. "There's a fine line. A lot of close pitches. He had 80-some pitches in four innings. I thought about letting him go back out there, but I just felt like he was spent there."
After Gausman's two scoreless innings, the Orioles received scoreless frames by Francisco Rodriguez, Tommy Hunter and Darren O'Day to finish the game.
Afterward, the newcomer Morse said that there's no doubt the Orioles are still players in the playoff race.
"I love it," he said. "This is what we play for. This is a great team, a great organization and there's so much upside to this organization and this team. And I think these guys are just starting to touch what they are capable of doing."