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Orioles hit three HRs, hang on for 5-4 victory over the New York Yankees

NEW YORK -- One day after being held to one hit, the Orioles found their bats Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium.

The Orioles hit three home runs, including Nelson Cruz’s 40th of the season, and had 17 hits in a 5-4 win over the Yankees in front of an announced 43,201, putting a dagger in New York’s already faint postseason hopes.

In Monday’s series opener, the Orioles managed just one hit in a 5-0 loss, marking the 11th time they’ve been shut out this season. But they’ve responded to those games well. Tuesday’s win was their ninth in 11 games after being shut out.

Right fielder Nick Markakis, playing in his second game since missing four games after he was hit by a pitch in the back of his right shoulder, gave the Orioles offense a jolt with four hits. He hit a two-run, line-drive homer to right field to give the club a 4-0 lead in the fourth inning.

Orioles manager Buck Showalter has tried to give his players rest to ensure they’re healthy for the postseason without compromising the team's chase for the American League’s best record and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

But on Tuesday, the sight of Markakis -- who also drove in three runs -- swinging pain-free and producing from the top of the batting order had to be the night's best sight for Showalter.

“I think more of it is everyone seeing Nick back swinging pain-free and like we know he can,” Showalter said. “It’s more of an ‘OK, that looks like that’s going to be there for us as we go forward.’”

The Orioles took a 5-1 lead Tuesday night, but they had to hold on for a one-run victory. The Yankees put the tying run on first base when Brett Gardner reached on an infield single with two outs in the ninth, bringing Derek Jeter to the plate and Yankees fans to their feet. But closer Zach Britton struck out Jeter on three pitches to end the game.

After losing back-to-back games for just the second time in a month, the Orioles -- who have already clinched the AL East title and home-field advantage in the AL Division Series -- posted their 94th win of the season, their highest season total since 1997.

“Obviously, we've only got so many games left, and then it's go time,” said Orioles second baseman Kelly Johnson, who hit a solo homer in the second inning. “It's time to start getting back to picking it up and winning. I think it's a little bit expected that you kind of drag a tad, but at the same time, there are five or six games left. Time to go."

With the win, the Orioles remained 2 1/2 games behind the Los Angeles Angels in the race for the top seed in the AL. The Angels beat the Oakland Athletics, 2-0, on Tuesday night. The Yankees could be eliminated from the playoff picture Wednesday.

“Every game’s important,” Markakis said. “Every chance you can get home-field advantage is definitely big, and we’ve still got five games left. We’ve still got some baseball to play and do some things that we want to do."

The Orioles (94-63), who lead the major leagues with 205 homers, are 26-0 in games in which they hit three or more home runs and have won 34 of their last 35 games when they score four or more runs.

Right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez, starting his second game since emerging from a bullpen demotion, held the Yankees to two runs and three hits over five-plus innings.

“Command was better,” Showalter said. “[Pitching coach] Dave [Wallace] said coming out of the 'pen, it was probably one of the best warmups and stuff he’s had all year. He’s sitting there at 92-93. Even though he walked some people, he got right back in the zone.”

Yankees starter Brandon McCarthy (7-5), who tossed seven shutout innings against the Orioles two weeks ago at Camden Yards, allowed all three homers and gave up a season-high 11 hits and five runs in 5 1/3 innings.

Johnson, a late-August trade acquisition from the Boston Red Sox, hit his first home run since joining the Orioles -- and his first since July 11 as a member of the Yankees (81-76) against his current team in Baltimore.

Johnson, who also recorded his first three-hit game of the season, opened the second inning by turning on a 91-mph fastball from McCarthy on a 1-1 count, sending it into the right-field stands. Later that inning, Markakis made the score 2-0 with a two-out RBI single.

Markakis put the Orioles up, 4-0, in the fourth when he sat on a 0-1 curveball and lined it into the right-field stands for his 13th homer of the season.

Up 4-1 in the fifth, Cruz hit a belt-high 2-1 fastball into the left-field stands, becoming the sixth Orioles player to his 40 home runs in a season, joining Chris Davis, Brady Anderson, Frank Robinson, Jim Gentile and Rafael Palmeiro.

Cruz’s 40 homers are also the second-most by a player in his first season with the Orioles, trailing only Robinson’s 49 during his Triple Crown season of 1966.

Jimenez (6-9) recorded a win in consecutive starts for the first time since early-May.

“I felt good,” Jimenez said. “I thought this was one of my best games in terms of commanding the fastball. I was able to use a lot of fastballs, getting ahead in the count after the first inning and working ahead.”

Jimenez found himself in trouble early, issuing a walk to Gardner to start the game and then hitting Chase Headley with a pitch with two outs. But Jimenez escaped the jam by inducing a flyout from Mark Teixeira and went on to retire the next eight batters.

Jimenez was chased from the game in the sixth inning after putting the first two batters of the inning on base with a single by Brian McCann and a walk to Headley. Brad Brach loaded the bases by walking Chris Young, but he escaped the inning by allowing just one run on Stephen Drew’s sacrifice fly.

Right-hander Darren O’Day retired the first two batters he faced in the seventh, but he was replaced by left-hander Andrew Miller after Jeter beat out a slow roller to third base for an infield single.

The lefty-vs.-lefty matchup backfired as McCann took Miller’s second pitch into the right-field seats for his 23rd home run of the season. McCann was 3-for-10 against Miller going into the at-bat.

Right-hander Tommy Hunter retired the Yankees in order in the eighth.

The Orioles stranded runners at the corners in the top of the ninth, but Britton converted his 36th save in 40 opportunities this season with a scoreless bottom of the ninth, striking out Jeter to end the game.

eencina@baltsun.com

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