NEW YORK (AP) Jacoby Ellsbury finished a triple shy of the cycle and drove in four runs and Chase Headley hit a three-run double in the first inning as the New York Yankees completed a three-game sweep of the Baltimore Orioles 9-3 Thursday to bolster their spot atop the AL East.
Masahiro Tanaka (7-3) won his third straight start, allowing three solo homers and a pair of doubles in 7 2-3 innings to help New York to its ninth win in 11 games.
The Yankees are 12 over .500 at 53-41 for the first time since May 25, 2013, their high point that season.
Ellsbury homered, had a sacrifice fly and a two-run double among three hits. With a chance at the cycle, he grounded back to the pitcher in the eighth.
Didi Gregorius followed Headley’s bases-clearing hit with an RBI single off Ubaldo Jimenez as New York increased their major league-leading total of first-inning runs to 86.
Jimenez (7-6) went into the All-Star break with a 2.81 ERA, firmly established as the Orioles’ ace. It’s been a completely different story since then, as he’s given up seven runs in two straight starts against Detroit and the Yankees.
The Yankees put up eight hits and seven runs before Jimenez could finish the third. After 2 1-3 innings, his ERA was at 3.81.
The Orioles have not been much better since the four-day break, dropping four of six. They are two games under .500 (46-48) for the first time since June 10.
Baltimore entered this series in second place in the AL East but is headed to Tampa Bay in fourth, seven games back of New York.
Ellsbury got the Yankees rolling right away, leading off the first with a single. Jimenez walked the bases loaded then struck out Mark Teixeira and got Carlos Beltran to fly to left. Headley hit a drive over the head of All-Star center fielder Adam Jones.
Four days from turning 40, Alex Rodriguez chugged home from first. He reached down awkwardly to try to touch the plate and did two full barrel rolls before landing on his back. Brett Gardner twice waved his arms wide – safe!
Ellsbury led off the second with a homer and had a sacrifice fly an inning later as the first batter to face reliever Tommy Hunter.
In the fifth, Ellsbury had a two-run double off Bud Norris, two batters after John Ryan Murphy’s grounder hit off second base and shot straight up, giving the backup catcher his third hit and second that nicked a base.
Hurt by the long ball all season, Tanaka yielded a homer to Chris Davis to start the second. He then didn’t allow a hit until Jimmy Paredes doubled with one out in the sixth. J.J. Hardy and Manny Machado connected in the eighth to chase the Japanese star.
Orioles: Manager Buck Showalter said RHP Jason Garcia (shoulder tendinitis, 60-day DL) is still a while away from returning, but his velocity is back up to the mid-90s.
Yankees: C Brian McCann was not in the starting lineup after starting the first five games since the All-Star break.
Orioles: Chris Tillman (7-7) pitched one-hit ball for eight innings in his last start. This will be his fourth start this season against the Rays. He’s 1-2 with 18 strikeouts in 18 1-3 innings.
Yankees: Michael Pineda (9-6) starts the opener of New York’s season high-tying 10-game road trip in Minnesota. Pineda has faced Torii Hunter three times and Hunter has two homers and five RBIs. The Yankees will take on former teammate Phil Hughes (8-6).