Improbable rally in seventh wins it for Yankees

Steve Pearce follows through on a base hit

Steve Pearce follows through on a base hit during the seventh inning in a game against the Baltimore Orioles at Yankee Stadium. (Sept. 1, 2012) (Credit: Jim McIsaac)

It started with Steve Pearce, a player who had never had a hit in a Yankees uniform. It ended with Nick Swisher, a player who is having a pretty good year in the Bronx.

Those were the disparate bookends of a three-run rally in the seventh inning that gave the struggling Yankees a critical 4-3 win over the Baltimore Orioles Saturday at the Stadium.

"It was a great win for us. We scrapped, we crawled and we scraped for runs," said Swisher, whose hard shot was bobbled by shortstop J.J. Hardy with two outs, allowing the go-ahead run to score. "Hopefully, that's the game that will get us out of that little thing we're in right now."

The Yankees had held a 10-game lead over the Orioles on July 18, but since that day, they had gone 18-22 to Baltimore's 26-14 as the Orioles moved within two games. More recently, the Yankees had lost seven of their last 10. And it looked as if that slide might continue when Pearce batted with one out in the seventh and the Yankees trailing 3-1.

Pearce was an unlikely candidate to start a rally, given that he was so new to the team that he still had a Houston Astros bag sitting in his locker before the game. He actually had started the season in the Yankees' farm system before being traded to the Orioles on June 2. He was designated for assignment on July 21 and claimed by the Astros a week later. The Yankees reacquired him last week.

"I just wanted to get on base," Pearce said. "I just wanted to find a way to create some havoc out there."

Pearce's single to left was just the third hit off Orioles starter Wei-Yin Chen. One out later, Jayson Nix battled back from an 0-and-2 hole to draw a walk. That brought up Eduardo Nuñez, who had reported Saturday as one of the September call-ups. Despite breaking his bat, he lined a soft single to left-center to make it 3-2 and knock out Chen.

Pedro Strop walked Ichiro Suzuki to load the bases, bringing Derek Jeter to the plate and the fans to their feet.

"I was comfortable. I like to be in those positions, but it doesn't mean I'm going to be successful," Jeter said. "I've failed many times, but when you're in those positions, you try to think of the successes you've had."

Jeter now has yet another success to put in his memory bank. After falling behind 0-and-2, he laid off a breaking ball that was just inside and walked to tie the score.

That brought up Swisher, whose one-hop liner to the left of second base caught Hardy back on his heels and hit him in the stomach. The player Orioles manager Buck Showalter called "the best shortstop in the league" couldn't pick it up -- twice -- and had no play as Nuñez scored the go-ahead run.

"It was just an outstanding job on our part,'' Yankees manager Joe Girardi said, "taking what the Orioles gave us, grinding out some at-bats and getting the lead."

And a much-needed win.

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