Gonzalez, Reynolds pull O's within two of Yanks

Gonzalez, Reynolds pull O's within two of Yanks

Gonzalez, Reynolds pull O's within two of Yanks
NEW YORK -- How did the Orioles end August? With an emphatic statement.

The "best team that nobody is talking about" -- a remark made Friday afternoon by newly signed Baltimore pitcher Randy Wolf -- these O's keep proving they can do without the buzz, the respect and the statistics that say their record is smoke and mirrors. As manager Buck Showalter pointed out to the overwhelming horde of reporters in the Bronx, his club isn't interested in conventionality.

And in the process of eschewing non-believers, what the Orioles (73-58) are doing is becoming more remarkable every day. Led by a superb start from the unassuming Miguel Gonzalez -- who wasn't even invited to big league Spring Training -- the Orioles topped a reeling Yankees club, 6-1, to move within two games of the American League East leaders.

"Keep doubting," said Orioles first baseman Mark Reynolds, who belted two homers. "I don't care. We keep coming in and doing our jobs and doing the little things that win baseball games."

Friday's win, in front of 43,352 at Yankee Stadium, is the Orioles' fifth victory in their last six games in New York and gives Baltimore a chance to win all three series in the Bronx this season. The O's -- who currently own one of the two AL Wild Card spots -- also improved to an astounding 57-0 when leading after seven innings as the bullpen continues to anchor the team's success.

And Gonzalez, who recorded a career-high nine strikeouts and fired seven scoreless innings, highlighted it.

"He was beating us on every pitch, really, to be honest with you," Yankees third baseman Eric Chavez said of Gonzalez, who didn't have a three-ball count until the sixth inning and had nine 0-2 counts. "His split-finger was good, he commanded all three of them really well, and sometimes you get beat. We got beat tonight by somebody who was better than us."

A 28-year-old rookie released by the Red Sox this winter, Gonzalez hadn't pitched since Aug. 20 -- the Orioles want to keep him fresh as he starts to hit uncharted territory following Tommy John surgery and knee surgery the last few years. The layoff paid off as he went more than six innings for the first time since Aug. 10, picking up his third win in four starts.

"He's pitched in pressure situations," Showalter said of Gonzalez, a late-February signing out of the Mexican Winter League who was stretched out as a starter due to team need. "He's a guy that's just letting it fly and trusting himself. He doesn't have anything to lose. Heck, he's had a lot of people in his career tell him that he couldn't do something, and I think he knows he's in a place where people get him and know what he brings."

Gonzalez, who has made it no secret he thrives off pitching against good competition in a hostile environment, said he fed off the adrenaline from Friday's packed stadium.

Asked if he, and the rest of the undervalued Orioles feel like they have something to prove this season, Gonzalez said: "Yeah, of course. We have a lot to prove. And obviously, tonight it showed."

The Orioles spotted Gonzalez three runs early, with Reynolds' first homer -- a second-deck blast -- helping pave the way for a three-run second inning off Yankees starter Hiroki Kuroda. Chris Davis got the scoring started with a sacrifice fly after Adam Jones and Matt Wieters opened the frame with a pair of singles.

J.J. Hardy pushed the lead to four in the sixth, sending Kuroda's 1-1 pitch into the left-field seats for his 18th homer of the season.

The early runs proved plenty for Gonzalez, who didn't allow a hit until Derek Jeter's leadoff single in the fourth inning. He responded with a pair of strikeouts and got Curtis Granderson to fly out, and Gonzalez wiggled free of a jam after putting runners on first and second with no outs in the fifth.

"Gonzo is a guy who really stays in the moment," pitching coach Rick Adair said. "He knows where he's been. He knows [what] he's been through in his career and he's a guy who is going to attack no matter where he is. He's a very fearless competitor."

Gonzalez recorded his ninth strikeout on Granderson to open the seventh and held New York to just four hits. He exited the 97-pitch outing in favor of reliever Darren O'Day, who pitched a 1-2-3 eighth and got some help from Reynolds, who made several stellar defensive plays at first base.

"It's a plus," said Reynolds, who added a solo homer in the ninth, of impacting the game on both sides of the field. "But like I said, it's ho-hum, just another day. Tomorrow, I might have a bad day and someone else might pick us up."

That's the attitude ingrained by Showalter, embodied by a close-knit Orioles club that is determined to get to the postseason. The O's ended August with an 18-9 record, their first 18-win month since September 2004 as they continue an assault on the club's current record books, hoping it ends with the organization's first playoff game in 15 years.

"It's that time of year where every game is tough, regardless of the competition," Showalter said. "Nothing that happened on the field tonight was something that was unexpected as far as effort and those things. But believe me, these guys, by the time they walk out that door, they will have turned the page. It's a very mature group, as far as judging what reality really is here."

Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.