It had been nearly a decade since the Baltimore Orioles won 18 games in a month.
It’s been much longer since they won six times in a season in the Bronx.
After completing an outstanding August with another impressive victory, the Orioles look to shave the New York Yankees’ AL East lead to one game on Saturday.
Baltimore opened its biggest series in recent memory with a 6-1 victory Friday night to pull within two games of the Yankees. Miguel Gonzalez struck out a career-high nine in seven scoreless innings and Mark Reynolds had two homers to help the Orioles (73-58) finish August 18-9 - their first 18-win month since September 2004.
The win also continued second-place Baltimore’s newfound success at Yankee Stadium, where it’s 5-2 this season. The Orioles, losers of 27 of 36 in the Bronx the previous four years, haven’t had six wins in a season there since going 8-1 in 1976.
“Keep doubting, we don’t care,” Reynolds said. “We’re coming in, doing our jobs and doing the little things to win baseball games.”
Curtis Granderson’s ninth-inning home run - his team-leading 34th - was all the offense the Yankees (75-56) could muster on their way to a seventh loss in 10 games. The two-game lead is New York’s smallest since it led Baltimore by 1 1/2 games June 22, and it topped the division by as many as 10 games on July 18.
“If you would have told me at the end of spring training, getting ready to start the season, we would have been two games up to start September, I would have signed up then,” said Nick Swisher, who struck out in all four of his at-bats.
Baltimore’s starting pitchers have been excellent lately, going 6-1 with a 2.35 ERA in the last seven games, striking out 49 and walking 12.
Wei-Yin Chen (12-7, 3.78 ERA) will try to continue that trend in his first appearance at Yankee Stadium.
Since getting hit hard in a loss to Kansas City on Aug. 9, the left-hander is 2-0 with a 3.71 ERA in his last three starts. He’s allowed seven earned runs over 17 innings in those games, with five coming in the first inning at Detroit on Aug. 19.
Chen was very good against the Chicago White Sox on Monday, yielding two runs - one earned - and four hits in six innings while striking out eight before leaving without a decision in a 4-3 win.
Chen is 1-0 with a 2.84 ERA in two starts versus New York.
The Yankees shuffled their rotation to push David Phelps (3-4, 2.96) up a day to make this start. The rookie has allowed three or fewer runs in five of his six starts this season and pitched into the seventh in each of his past two.
“We like the way Phelpsie and (Phil Hughes) Hughesie have been throwing, so we’re going to start them,” manager Joe Girardi told the team’s official website. “It’s not just one little thing. It’s things we looked at, and we decided to go that way.”
Phelps gave up four runs and five hits over 6 1-3 innings against Toronto on Monday and was in line for the victory before closer Rafael Soriano blew the save in the ninth inning.
The right-hander will face the Orioles as a starter for the first time after working five scoreless innings over three relief appearances against them.
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