NEW YORK – Orioles rookie Miguel Gonzalez struck out a career-high nine over seven shutout innings in a masterful pitching performance and Mark Reynolds homered twice as Baltimore tightened the AL East race Friday night with a 6-1 victory over the skidding New York Yankees.
J.J. Hardy added a solo shot for the surprising Orioles, who moved within two games of first-place New York by winning the opener of their big three-game series. Thats the closest Baltimore has been since a 1 1/2 -game deficit on June 22, less than a month before the Yankees opened a season-high 10-game cushion on July 18.
Buck Showalters young team has been gaining ground since, winning 18 of its last 25 to head into September as serious playoff contenders for the first time in 15 years.
Reynolds made two spectacular plays at first base and Chris Davis had a sacrifice fly in Baltimores three-run second inning against Hiroki Kuroda (12-10), the Yankees most consistent and durable starter this season. The 37-year-old right-hander gave up eight hits in 8 1/3 innings, going at least eight for the fourth straight outing, but again was hurt by a lack of run support.
Pitching on 10 days rest, Gonzalez (6-3) yielded only four harmless singles to win for the fourth time in five decisions.
He walked one and threw 66 of 97 pitches for strikes in his second win at Yankee Stadium. The right-hander beat New York 5-4 on July 30, setting his previous career best with eight strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings.
Nick Swisher whiffed all four times up for the Yankees, who have dropped seven of 10 and nine of 14. This was the first of 10 consecutive games against Baltimore and Tampa Bay, their two closest pursuers in the AL East.
BLUE JAYS 2, RAYS 1: In Toronto, Moises Sierra homered and threw out pinch-runner Elliot Johnson at home plate for the final out to lift Toronto and preserve Brandon Morrows first win since June 6.
Edwin Encarnacion hit his 35th home run as the Blue Jays handed the Rays their sixth loss in seven games. The Blue Jays have won three straight for the first time since July 26-28. Toronto went 9-19 in August.
RANGERS 5, INDIANS 3: In Cleveland, Adrian Beltre had four hits and scored twice as Texas handed Cleveland its sixth straight loss. Beltre had three of his hits off Ubaldo Jimenez (9-14) as the Rangers rolled to their 10th win in 13 games.
The Indians 15th loss in 16 games made them 5-24 in August, tying the team record for losses in one month, set in July 1914.
TWINS, ROYALS, ppd.: Minnesotas game in Kansas City, Mo., was postponed by rain, and the game will be made up as part of a doubleheader today.