Curtis Granderson drives in five runs as Yankees earn split with Orioles

Yankees starter Freddy Garcia gave up three runs Yankees starter Freddy Garcia gave up three runs on three hits in 3.1 innings against the Orioles at Camden Yards. (Sept. 9, 2012) Photo Credit: AP

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BALTIMORE -- A key four-game series that included a bit of everything ended the way it started: with the Yankees still in first place.

They got only 31/3 innings out of Freddy Garcia on Sunday, but some stellar work from the bullpen and the offense's most complete performance in weeks earned the Yankees a resounding 13-3 victory over the Orioles in front of 40,346 at Camden Yards and a split of the four-game series.

The Yankees (79-61) head into a day off Monday with a one-game lead and finished their season series with the second-place Orioles (78-62) at 9-9. The Orioles tied the Yankees for first place three times in the past week but never moved ahead of them.

"We still have a lot of important games left," said Joe Girardi, whose team starts a three-game series in Boston Tuesdaynight. "But every win that you get at this point, it almost seems, because of the time of year, it's doubly important."

It was an impressive -- and important -- bounce-back victory after Saturday night's 5-4 loss that resulted in an angry clubhouse firing blame at the umpires and an even angrier Girardi nearly getting into a physical altercation with a reporter.

It was the second bounce-back victory of the series, with Friday night's 8-5 victory following Thursday night's 10-6 loss -- a game in which the Orioles hit six home runs.

"We lost a couple of tough games but we did battle back, we never gave up," said Derek Jeter, who had two hits, including a two-run homer, and three RBIs. "We would have liked to have won them, but we didn't. But today was a big one for us, especially with a much-needed day off [Monday].''

The Yankees came through 10 straight games against the Orioles and Rays (77-63) with a 4-6 record.

"The bottom line is we're still in first place," Girardi said. "The one thing you want to be able to do is rely on your club. You don't want to have to rely on other people."

Curtis Granderson, who had gone 6-for-48 with 18 strikeouts in the previous 15 games, didn't get into the game until the sixth inning but still went 3-for-3 with his 35th homer and five RBIs. He pinch hit for Andruw Jones and hit the first pitch he saw from Jake Arrieta over a leaping Adam Jones and into the Orioles' bullpen in left-center to make it 6-3. Then he looped a two-out, two-run single to left-center off lefty Zach Phillips in the seventh and lined a two-run double to right off Kevin Gregg to cap a five-run eighth.

"I felt like from the Tampa series to this series, I was getting balls to hit," Granderson said. "I was putting swings on them but wasn't able to do much with them for whatever reason. Today, similar pitches, this time I was able to put the balls in play."

Robinson Cano, Russell Martin and Ichiro Suzuki each added two hits for the Yankees, who outhit the Orioles 14-4, drew eight walks and drove Baltimore starter Zach Britton from the game after 31/3 innings.

After Alex Rodriguez grounded into a double play, Cano picked him up with an RBI single to left in the first inning to put the Yankees ahead for good.

Britton (5-2) allowed A-Rod's line-drive single to right and three straight walks to begin the fourth. Jayson Nix and Ichiro added RBI singles -- with the latter a Baltimore chop -- and Jeter walked with the bases loaded to make it 5-0, although Nick Swisher (now hitless in his last 28 at-bats) and Rodriguez struck out to strand three runners.

Garcia -- who likely made his final start with Ivan Nova available to return to the rotation -- allowed three runs and three hits before being knocked out with one out in the fourth. Staked to a 5-0 lead, he hit J.J. Hardy with an 0-and-2 pitch, gave up Wilson Betemit's two-run double on an 0-and-2 pitch and allowed an RBI single by Matt Wieters on a 1-and-2 pitch to make it 5-3.

Girardi called on Joba Chamberlain, and with what might have been the best slider he's shown since coming off the disabled list July 31, he struck out four in 12/3 innings. Chamberlain (1-0), Boone Logan, Cory Wade and Derek Lowe combined to allow one hit and strike out nine in 52/3 scoreless innings.

"It was a close game, so that's a big turning point in the game to be able to go out and get us out of that inning and continue to put up a zero in the next inning," Chamberlain said. "That's just something you have to continue to build on, especially the way [the Orioles] have been swinging the bat. You know they can change the game in a couple of swings."

Jeter's 15th homer of the season, a two-run shot off Gregg, ignited a five-run eighth that made it 13-3. He went 9-for-19 in the series, has a major league-leading 191 hits and moved within four percentage points of American League batting leader Mike Trout (.328 to .324).

With 31 runs scored in the four games against the Orioles, and after going 7-for-15 with runners in scoring position Sunday, are the Yankees ready to get on an offensive roll?

"You hope so, but you have to do it more than just one or two games," Jeter said. "I like the way we've been swinging. We've been swinging the bats pretty well as of late."

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