BALTIMORE -- In a game Yankees manager Joe Girardi deemed their "most important of the season," New York jumped out to an early lead and pitched around trouble to avoid a series sweep with a 5-2 win over the Orioles on Sunday afternoon at Camden Yards.
A loss would have dropped the Yankees 5 1/2 games out of the second American League Wild Card spot. Instead, they moved to 3 1/2 games behind Baltimore for the final playoff spot, while the O's fell to three games back of the AL East lead and slipped back into a tie with the Tigers for the second AL Wild Card, two ahead of Houston.
"I think everybody here knows what's going on," Yankees third baseman Chase Headley said. "We came in with a goal of trying to win the series at least, but that didn't happen. If you drop three, you're really putting yourself behind the eight-ball; I'm not going to say it's over, but it's going to be tough. We're still in it, so it was important."
The Orioles had shut out New York in three straight games for the first time in franchise history, but lefty Wade Miley struggled right away as the Yankees came out swinging with a three-run first inning and built a four-run lead in the third with Headley's second RBI single.
"The first inning, that hurts," Miley said. "[It] makes it tough to catch up."
Baltimore threatened often against starter Michael Pineda, but the O's never recorded the big hit. Pineda allowed two runs over four-plus innings, and Luis Severino came on to help the Yankees escape a bases-loaded jam in the fifth.
The Yankees' bullpen hurled five scoreless frames in relief of Pineda, capped by a four-out save by Dellin Betances. It's his eighth save since taking over as the closer when New York dealt away Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller at the non-waiver Trade Deadline.
"You can't afford to lose three in a row to these guys," Girardi said. "We know they play really well in this building. We lost a really tough game last night. To be able to bounce back today is important, and it keeps us alive."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Quick start: The Yankees have not been shut out in three consecutive games since July 1975, and Headley kept it that way by flaring a soft run-scoring single to left field in the first inning. Austin Romine followed with a ground ball through the left side of the infield to bring in two more runs, a most welcome sight for a club that had been outscored 10-0 in the first two games of the series.
"Head had a great game today," Romine said. "Two RBIs, and that really put us out early, and I was able to tack on a couple there in the first inning that gave us some breathing room. It was nice to go up early and be able to work instead of just battling. It was huge for us, having a good day."
Missed opportunities: The Orioles had multiple chances to get back into Sunday's game, but a hit with runners in scoring position proved elusive. They finished 0-for-10 with RISP, striking out five times in such instances.
"We know he's got that type of stuff," Showalter said of Pineda, who notched four strikeouts, three with runners in scoring position. "He made some pitches when he had to." More >
'Sev'ing the day: Girardi had a short leash on Pineda, and though he had hoped for six or seven innings from his starter, the Yanks settled for 12 outs before handing the ball to Severino. A pair of one-out walks loaded the bases in the fifth, but Severino wriggled free as he struck out Steve Pearce and got Matt Wieters to ground out softly. Severino then retired the side in order in the sixth inning.
"Starter or reliever, I just want to do my job," Severino said. "If they give me the opportunity, I'm going to try to do my best." More >
A step back: Miley, who was acquired at the non-waiver Trade Deadline, seemed to be settling in after posting a 3.75 ERA over his past two starts. But the lefty struggled with his command Sunday, matching his season high with four walks. He walked the first two batters of the game, and both came around to score. While he managed to go five innings, his ERA through seven starts with Baltimore sits at 7.15.
"When you don't throw strikes, it's tough," Miley said. "You put yourself on your heels right out of the gate."
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS Adam Jones recorded two singles to move past Paul Blair on the Orioles' all-time hits list with 1,427.
WHAT'S NEXT Yankees:Masahiro Tanaka (11-4, 3.12) has the ball on Monday at 1:05 p.m. ET, as the Yankees welcome the Blue Jays to Yankee Stadium, opening a three-game series. Knuckleballer R.A. Dickey will start for the AL East leaders, who have taken nine of 12 meetings with the Bombers so far this year.
Orioles: Baltimore opens a three-city road trip with a 1:10 p.m. ET game against Tampa Bay in St. Petersburg on Monday. Ubaldo Jimenez (5-11, 6.46) will make his third straight start after being moved back into the rotation to fill in for injured Chris Tillman. The veteran righty has posted back-to-back quality starts.