On a day when Alex Rodriguez's most memorable moment was an awkward tumble into home, Jacoby Ellsbury and the bottom of the order stepped up Thursday to lead the Yankees to a 9-3 win over the Orioles.
The Yankees' fifth win in six games since the All-Star break capped a three-game sweep of the defending AL East champs at the Stadium. The Yankees are 51/2 games ahead of the second-place Blue Jays, and 12 games over .500 (53-41) for the first time since May 25, 2013.
Masahiro Tanaka (7-3, 3.64) went 72/3 innings, allowing five hits and three runs, all on solo homers, by Chris Davis (his 21st), J.J. Hardy (sixth) and Manny Machado (21st). Tanaka walked none and struck out seven.
Brett Gardner, Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira, Nos. 2, 3 and 4 in the lineup, went 0-for-11. The rest of the Yankees had 13 hits in 24 at-bats. Ellsbury had the biggest day of all -- 3-for-4, four RBIs -- and 6-7-8 hitters Chase Headley, Didi Gregorius and John Ryan Murphy were 8-for-12 with four RBIs and five runs.
"Those guys have carried us in the middle of the lineup all year,'' said Murphy, who started for catcher Brian McCann and had a career-high three hits in four at-bats, "but days like this are going to happen and other guys have to step up.''
Headley was the first to do so. After loading the bases with no outs in the first, Ubaldo Jimenez (7-6) struck out Teixeira and got Carlos Beltran to pop out to shallow left. Headley, who was 7-for-24 against Jimenez coming in, smoked a first-pitch fastball over Adam Jones' head in center for a three-run double.
"I was just looking for a pitch up in the zone that I could handle and was able to get one,'' said Headley, who went 2-for-4.
Rodriguez scored from first but tripped while evading catcher Matt Wieters and tumbled into home.
"That's just funny,'' Murphy said. "He tripped and fell and everybody's laughing at him.''
Gregorius (3-for-4) drove in Headley with a single. Two innings later, Stephen Drew's double made it 6-1 and chased Jimenez.
"The nice thing about the win is contributions from a lot of different guys,'' Ellsbury said. "Since the All-Star break, I think that's been the case with a lot of our wins.''
In Ellsbury's previous six games, he went 3-for-26 (.115). He said he "felt pretty good'' the last few games, but he finally got results.
The centerfielder has played 11 games since returning from nearly two months on the disabled list. His leadoff single started the four-run first, and his two-run double in the fifth extended the lead to 9-1.
"I just think the All-Star break in a sense probably hurt him,'' manager Joe Girardi said, "because he had only played four or five games and then he had another four days off. Now that we're playing every day, he probably feels more comfortable.''
The Yankees hadn't gotten three hits each out of a catcher, shortstop and centerfielder in the same game since Thurman Munson, Gene Michael and Elliott Maddox did it on Aug. 31, 1974. It took a pair of singles that struck the bags at third and second for Murphy to get his three, but any contribution helped.
Especially given a rare off day by the middle of the order.