PHOTO VIA USA TODAY SPORTS
NEW YORK (AP) - In a jarring seven-pitch sequence in the fifth inning, the rejuvenated New York Yankees showed just how dangerous an opponent they could be during the stretch run.
Ichiro Suzuki hit a two-run homer and Robinson Cano singled in two runs during a five-run fifth that helped the Yankees pick up an ineffective CC Sabathia and beat the Baltimore Orioles 8-5 Friday night.
''If I could keep these guys in the game we got a good chance of winning,'' Sabathia said. ''I was barely hanging on there but these guys come up with a bunch of runs.''
Trailing by two runs in the fifth against Miguel Gonzalez, Curtis Granderson led off with a double on the fourth pitch of the inning. Two pitches later, Mark Reynolds doubled to left-center field. Then on Gonzalez's next offering, Suzuki knocked a fastball into the seats in right-center for a 5-4 lead, and New York never trailed again.
By adding Alfonso Soriano and getting back Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter, manager Joe Girardi can bat Granderson sixth and Reynolds, another slugging newcomer, seventh in a suddenly-potent Yankees lineup.
''We feel our lineup is a lot deeper,'' Girardi said. ''It definitely helped.''
Soriano connected for a two-run shot in the fourth off Gonzalez (8-7), and Rodriguez had an RBI single in the seventh inning of a late August game that felt more like October.
In a playoff-race twist, Reynolds had three hits, including an RBI double when the Yankees batted around in the fifth. Last year he helped Baltimore reach its first postseason since 1997 with seven homers and 11 RBIs in seven games against New York beginning on Aug. 31.
An August pickup by New York from Cleveland this season, Reynolds was right in the mix as the Yankees gained ground in the wild-card race. They began the day 1½ games behind the Orioles, who trailed Oakland by 3½ for the second AL wild card.
''It makes it fun,'' Reynolds said. ''I have so many good friends over there. Last year we wanted nothing more than to kick these guys' tails, now I want nothing more than to beat them.''
Sabathia (12-11) lasted just 5 2-3 innings and yielded five runs and seven hits. In his last eight games, he has a 7.39 ERA.
Girardi then relied on the majors' best bullpen since Aug. 16 (1.14 ERA) to hold off Baltimore. Shawn Kelley, Boone Logan and David Robertson, who got four outs, paved the way for Mariano Rivera. Robertson got more than three outs for the second time this week and for the third time all year. Rivera was perfect in the ninth for his 39th save.
''Right now it's getting tight. We need to win every opportunity we can. I was prepared to come in the seventh inning,'' said Robertson, the Yankees' primary setup man.
Gonzalez, making his first start since Aug. 20, is winless in his last six decisions as a starter. Coming in, though, he had a 2.20 ERA over five starts in the Bronx.
''It wasn't just Miguel tonight,'' Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. ''He pitched as well as you'd want but couldn't get over the hump.''
Both starters were locked in early. Sabathia retired his first 10 batters and Gonzalez 10 of 11, allowing only a walk in the third - erased on a double play.
But it turned ugly quickly.
After Sabathia struck out Nate McLouth to open the fourth, Manny Machado laced an opposite-field liner that bounced over the wall in foul territory in right field for his 46th double. He advanced on a wild pitch and scored on Chris Davis' single.
Gonzalez got two quick outs in the bottom half before walking Cano. Soriano then hit his 11th homer in 27 August games to put New York up 2-1.
''He's playing like an MVP, when you look at the month of August,'' Girardi said. ''He's been a complete player for us.''