NEW YORK — It hardly felt like a playoff chase inside Yankee Stadium on Friday, with the Orioles playing under a constant rain and stubborn wind before a sparse crowd in the Bronx.
But these Orioles brought their own energy to New York, moving one step closer to a postseason berth with an 8-1 victory anchored by three homers into the dreary night.
With the win over the Yankees, the Orioles took control of the American League wild-card race with two games remaining in the regular season. They lead the Toronto Blue Jays by one game for the top wild-card spot and the Detroit Tigers by 1 1/2 games. Not only could they clinch a postseason berth as early as Saturday night, but they also have a real shot at hosting Tuesday's wild-card playoff game at Camden Yards.
The Orioles (88-72), who have victories in six of their past seven games overall, have pushed their way to the front of the race by winning on the road, taking their last two games in Toronto before winning Friday's series opener.
"It's tough," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "And our guys know it's a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately world. We will do it again in a few hours. Guys worked on real short sleep last night.
"For some reason, we played a night game yesterday, and for some reason, it was 2 1/2 hours getting out of the airport in Toronto. Guys got to bed about 5 this morning, short sleep — and [will] be ready again tomorrow. They know what's at stake and they aren't going to not give themselves an opportunity to get a chance."
The Orioles broke Friday's game open with three homers in a six-run fifth inning, capped by a three-run blast by Jonathan Schoop, who matched his single-game career high with five RBIs. After scoring three runs or fewer in 10 of their past 12 games coming into this weekend's final regular-season series, the Orioles had their best offensive output in nearly three weeks.
The Orioles had lost five of their seven previous games at Yankee Stadium this year and were outscored 27-14 in their previous series here in late August. They opened their most important series of the season by going back to their roots. They relied on the long ball.
"It's always the endgame, the end product," Showalter said. "Do you have more runs than they do after 27 outs, sometimes 30 outs, sometimes [more]? … If it's not conventional, maybe that fits us really well. ... We do some things that make people scratch their head, but we don't. We know what we're after and how we get there. We don't care. It doesn't have to look aesthetically pleasing."
They Orioles have 250 homers this season, the fifth team in major league history to reach that milestone, joining the 1997 Seattle Mariners (264), 2005 Texas Rangers (260), 1996 Orioles (257) and 2010 Toronto Blue Jays (257).
"It's good," Schoop said. "We got a power team, and everybody is capable to catch one. The power is just one thing. We pitch, we defend and we prove that we score not only when we hit home runs. We score when we move the runner over, sac fly, everything. We're a really good team."
The Orioles were aggressive at the plate against Yankees (83-77) pitching. Both of Schoop's RBI hits came on the second pitch of the at-bat, and Adam Jones' solo homer came on the first pitch of the Orioles' big fifth inning.
Schoop, who scuffled through a dreadful September in which he hit just .149 over his first 24 games, broke out with a two-run, two-out double in the fourth. The hit off Yankees starter Michael Pineda (6-12) opened the scoring.
"I know it's baseball, and my teammates, they help me a lot," said Schoop, who is 5-for-11 over his past three games. "Everybody goes through it, and you've got to keep your focus and you've got to keep believing in yourself and come through."
Jones then took the first pitch he saw in the fifth against Pineda — an 85-mph changeup — off the second-deck facade in left field. Two batters after Hyun Soo Kim singled, Mark Trumbo followed a monstrous foul ball with a shot down the left-field line for his majors-leading 47th homer of the season.
Schoop later followed with his 25th home run, taking an 0-1 slider from Yankees reliever James Pazos to left field.
All year long, the Orioles have shown the ability to put up runs in a hurry. Their three-homer fifth inning marked the 10th time this season that the Orioles have hit three homers in one inning, according to STATS LLC. The Orioles last hit three homers in an inning in the second inning of an 8-0 win over the Yankees on Sept. 2 at Camden Yards.
Right-hander Yovani Gallardo (6-8) recorded a quality start, holding the Yankees to one run on two hits over six innings. Despite walking four batters, Gallardo didn't allow a hit until the fourth inning.
"I was just able to keep the hitters off balance, mixing in some curveballs, some changeups and that sort of thing, which throughout the year I wasn't able to do," Gallardo said. "I think it's just really keeping the ball in the ballpark."
Had Friday's game not had massive playoff implications, it likely would have been postponed, but the Orioles and Yankees played through some blustery conditions because they needed to — especially with storms continuing through the weekend in New York.
"Drop it about 15 degrees, [and] that's about as tough [of weather conditions] as you ever want to play in," Showalter said. "Crazy wind, though. … There was no routine play out there tonight. That was a challenge. You got to really want something to grind through that. … That was tough. You really got to be ready to play."