Hardy, Ford pace O's as they regain share of first

Hardy, Ford pace O's as they regain share of first

Hardy, Ford pace O's as they regain share of first
BALTIMORE -- There's a number of reasons to give why games like Saturday night's are the ones the Orioles have been losing for so very long.

They fell behind against a pitcher who owned them for years. They lost Nick Markakis to a broken thumb midway through the game. Even though the Orioles rallied to take the lead, setup man Pedro Strop had trouble once more and closer Jim Johnson wasn't completely sharp. Plus, they were playing the Yankees. Enough said.

But life's been different at Camden Yards in 2012. The Orioles are making crucial plays and getting big hits at the right times. In this game, Baltimore banged out three solo homers to rally from an early two-run deficit and beat long-time nemesis CC Sabathia. The Orioles also might have even benefited from an umpire's call in the ninth that helped them close out the 5-4 victory over New York and pulled them into a first-place tie in the American League East.

"Everything's intense. Everything matters. It's fun," said Oriole first baseman Mark Reynolds, who hit another homer against the Yankees.

The Orioles now have gotten even with the Yankees -- both are 78-61 -- for the third time in less than a week. New York held a 10-game lead over Baltimore earlier in July. The two teams meet in the last game of the series Sunday afternoon.

Manager Buck Showalter also enjoyed this night and saw how much the sellout crowd of 46,067 loved it. Plenty of Yankees fans showed up again, but orange and black were everywhere and Oriole Park was filled with noise, just like in days gone by.

"I think the biggest thing I'm happy for is our players and our fans," Showalter said. "As I get older, I can take in a moment a lot better, and I stopped when I went out and shook their hands and I looked around our ballpark, the way it's hopefully going to be. The way it can be. I take that in."

The game's ending triggered a lot of noise. Baltimore took advantage of solo homers from Reynolds, Lew Ford and J.J. Hardy to take a 5-2 lead into the eighth. New York got a run off Strop in the eighth on an Alex Rodriguez homer, and the Orioles needed Brian Matusz to bail out their setup man and finish the inning.

The Yankees then pushed across a run against Johnson in the ninth and had first and third with one out. Showalter kept the middle infield back, hoping for a double play, and Mark Teixeira grounded to second baseman Robert Andino. He started the 4-6-3 twin killing that ended the game and sparked a lot of controversy.

First-base umpire Jerry Meals called Teixeira out when the Yankees' first baseman appeared safe on replay as he slid head-first across the bag. Teixeira also had words with home-plate umpire Cory Blaser after being called out on strikes in the eighth.

"Pretty sure the game was televised, so everyone saw what it was. It was just a terrible call," Teixeira said. "Very frustrating. It started in the eighth inning. We could have had a big inning there, and a questionable call on me as well. And in the ninth, sometimes you wonder if the umpires are just trying to get out of there. They don't want you to make a comeback, they want to go home, because those are terrible calls."

The ending plus the possible season-ending injury to Markakis overshadowed a big night for other players.

Reynolds hit his seventh homer of the season against the Yankees, and that ties a club record for most homers vs. New York in one year. Ramon Hernandez also did it six years ago. Ford homered and finished 2-for-4 with two RBIs. The last time he drove in more than one run in a game was on June 30, 2007, when playing with the Twins.

Joe Saunders (2-1) battled back from a tough beginning to his night, in which he gave up a run in the first two innings to give New York a 2-0 lead. But the left-hander settled down and allowed two runs on five hits in 5 1/3 innings and got the Orioles deeper into the game. Darren O'Day came on to get Saunders out of a two-on, one-out jam in the sixth by striking out Russell Martin and Curtis Granderson.

Strop got his first two batters out in the eighth before the Rodriguez homer. The next two batters got on before Matusz got Granderson to pop out. Johnson finished off his 42nd save.

And on a night when so many things went right, the biggest plus might have been the fact that the Orioles beat Sabathia (13-5) for the second time this season. They hit all three homers off him and are 2-0 this year versus him -- after going 2-16 before that.

The Markakis injury clearly dampened things in the clubhouse, but the players said they've got no choice but to go on -- and hope they can keep doing what they've been doing. It's been working so far.

Maybe that's why things are different around these parts this year.

"The pressure's not on us, I don't believe," said center fielder Adam Jones. "You get to show up and play a great game. You've got to go through the ups and downs, the grinds, the struggles, the injuries of the season. It's 162 games."

Jeff Seidel is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.