NEW YORK (AP) — Shortstop J.J. Hardy’s bases-loaded error let New York complete a seventh-inning comeback and the Yankees stung the Baltimore Orioles 4-3 Saturday to restore their AL East lead to three games.
Shut down all afternoon, the struggling Yankees rallied for three runs in the seventh against a suddenly shaky Baltimore bullpen. The streaking Orioles had won 13 straight one-run decisions before falling apart as the calendar turned to September.
Newly promoted Eduardo Nunez hit an RBI single with two outs that chased Wei-Yin Chen (12-8) and made it 3-2. Pedro Strop, one of baseball’s best relievers, walked Ichiro Suzuki and then threw two quick strikes to Derek Jeter before walking him, forcing home the tying run.
Nick Swisher followed with a hard, one-hop grounder that ate up Hardy, who leads major league shortstops in fielding percentage, and the Yankees took the lead.
The Yankees won for only the fourth time in 11 games, but lost another power bat when Curtis Granderson left after two innings because of tightness in his right hamstring. He was taken to the hospital for a precautionary MRI.
Manager Joe Girardi doesn’t think Granderson will be sidelined along with injured sluggers Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira. He will check with his center fielder Sunday before making out his lineup.
Baltimore had won six of seven, and was looking to trim the Yankees’ division lead to one game. Rather than having a chance to pull even Sunday, the Orioles need a win to avoid losing ground on their trip to the Bronx.
The Orioles were perched shoulder-to-shoulder on the dugout railing for the first pitch. Playoff contenders for the first time in 15 years, they were clearly playing a big game.
They started out well, too.
Left fielder Nate McLouth and right fielder Nick Markakis made nifty diving catches on the first two Yankees batters. Matt Wieters homered to give Baltimore a 3-0 lead in the fourth, and Chen seemed to be in control.
But the Orioles missed a chance to score more by grounding into three double plays, giving the Yankees a chance to rally.
Boone Logan (6-2) pitched two scoreless innings and Rafael Soriano worked the ninth for his 35th save in 38 chances.
Chen set down the first 11 batters before Robinson Cano poked an 0-2 pitch for an opposite-field homer to left, his 28th.
Chen mixed speeds right away, keeping the Yankees off-balance. He showed Swisher a 68 mph curve in the first inning and followed with a 92 mph fastball.
Yankees starter David Phelps looked out of sorts from the start. He walked two, made a wild pickoff throw, gave up a run on McLouth’s double-play grounder and got a visit from pitching coach Larry Rothschild, all in the first inning.
Phelps flexed his shoulders and pawed at the mound after hitting Chris Davis to begin the second. Rothschild again visited the uneasy rookie after Manny Machado’s RBI single.
Wieters opened the fourth with his 18th homer.
NOTES: Phelps was pulled in the fifth after his sixth walk. He issued just three walks in August, spanning 19 2-3 innings. … Phelps made a snap throw to pick off Mark Reynolds at first base in the third. Phelps picked off two Texas runners in a game last month. … RHP Chris Tillman (7-2, 3.26 ERA) starts for the Orioles on Sunday vs. RHP Phil Hughes (13-11, 4.02). … Girardi said LHP Andy Pettitte (broken left ankle) came through fine after a throwing session Friday. Pettitte was to see a doctor later and have another bullpen session soon. … Rodriguez (broken left hand) could rejoin the Yankees when they open a series Monday at Tampa Bay.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)