Six-run eruption helps O's eliminate Yankees

Eleven bat in key fourth inning; Norris fans nine in six innings

Six-run eruption helps O's eliminate Yankees

NEW YORK -- Any more concerns about the Orioles' offense in late September?  

Baltimore, which clinched the American League East Division on Sept. 16, has proved its recent lull was no more than a temporary dip with a combined 32 hits in its last two games in the Bronx. On Wednesday, the Orioles used an 11-batter, six-run fourth inning to top the Yankees, 9-5, and officially eliminate New York from postseason contention.

"It seems as though when we hit home runs, we win a lot of ballgames," outfielder David Lough said of the powerful O's lineup, "but today showed that we're capable of just coming up with hits and coming up with runs and getting [baserunners] in from scoring position."

The O's (95-63) remained 2 1/2 games behind the Angels, who also won Wednesday, for the best record in the AL. If the Orioles can overtake the Halos, they would guarantee themselves home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. The sentiment in the clubhouse after the win was that the O's didn't take extra pride in knocking out New York.

"We've got an outside shot of catching Anaheim," manager Buck Showalter said. "But you don't ever take some satisfaction out of [eliminating another team]. When we came in here the first time, earlier in the year, we knew -- and here they are, in it with four, five games left to play. That's quite a testament to them and the challenges that [manager] Joe [Girardi] and the staff and the organization have had with a lot of injuries. To stay this engaged this long was pretty impressive."

Also impressive? The way the Orioles turned the tables on Yankees starter Shane Greene, who was dominant early and watched a three-run lead -- and his outing -- go by the wayside as the O's bats woke up.  

Ryan Flaherty, up with the bases loaded and one out in the fourth, put the Orioles on the board with a two-run double. He was followed one out later by Nick Markakis' two-run single, and Lough added a triple to score Markakis. Adam Jones' bunt single scored Lough for the sixth run of the inning.

"It's important [to manufacture runs], especially in the postseason," Flaherty said. "The weather's cold, wind's blowing in -- kind of like today. There weren't many people who were going to hit the ball through that wind."  

Orioles starter Bud Norris did his part to keep the Yankees in check, going six innings and allowing three runs on five hits. Norris, who improved to 9-1 with a 2.91 ERA against the AL East this season, struck out nine in the 95-pitch outing.

"Everybody talks about the AL East being the best division in baseball, and it elevates my game," Norris said. "I go out there and pitch, and I've learned a lot from the guys here. I've gotten a lot of critiquing from [Chris] Tillman and other guys to help me get through these things. I'm just going to go out there and compete. The numbers have been outstanding, but the victories are what it's about -- team victories for me and this group."  

  After allowing one run in each of his first three innings, including homers by Stephen Drew and Chase Headley, Norris settled in and retired his final eight batters, then turned the ball over to right-hander Tommy Hunter. Hunter recorded one out in the seventh before a double prompted Showalter to tab lefty Brian Matusz to finish off the inning. Showalter wanted certain pitchers to work in back-to-back games, so in all, Baltimore used six pitchers, setting up righty Darren O'Day's fourth save.

Baltimore tacked on three more in the eighth inning on Lough's sacrifice fly off reliever David Phelps and RBI singles by Jones and Nelson Cruz, who singled four times on the day. Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira cut into that lead with a two-run homer off Brad Brach in the bottom of the frame.

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