BALTIMORE - After two Orioles pitchers lost their ability to throw strikes, all but handing the Yankees a three-run fifth inning that gave the Bombers a two-run lead, the question became: Could the Yankees' beleaguered pitching staff, particularly a recently under-siege bullpen, get the ball to Dellin Betances?
On this Sunday afternoon, the answer was yes.
Though Adam Warren managed to last just 42/3 innings, Chasen Shreve and Justin Wilson combined for an effective 31/3-inning bridge to Betances, who closed out a much-needed 5-3 victory over the Orioles in front of 36,343 on a sweaty 91-degree day at Camden Yards.
"They were huge," Joe Girardi said of Shreve and Wilson. "It was just an outstanding performance by those guys."
Betances, in his first opportunity as closer since taking over the job for the injured Andrew Miller, allowed a two-out walk to Manny Machado in the ninth but struck out pinch hitter Matt Wieters for his third save of the season.
The victory enabled the Yankees (34-28), who got a surprising 3-for-4, two-RBI game from backup catcher John Ryan Murphy in snapping a three-game slide, to avoid a three-game sweep. They head to Miami for a two-game series against the Marlins that starts Monday night.
"As a whole, we did a great job bouncing back, especially after two tough losses," said Murphy, whose hit keyed the fifth.
With the Orioles (31-31), whose six-game winning streak came to an end, leading 3-2 in the top of the fifth, Baltimore starter Mike Wright walked the bases loaded.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter finally pulled the plug, calling for lefthander Brian Matusz, back from his eight-game suspension for being caught with a foreign substance on his forearm. Matusz walked Garrett Jones to bring in Chase Headley to make it 3-3. The erratic pitcher struck out Stephen Drew and Didi Gregorius but fell behind Murphy 2-and-0. He served up an 89-mph fastball that Murphy smacked off the glove of a diving Machado at third for a double that brought in Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira to give the Yankees a 5-3 lead.
"I got into a good count and he left me a good pitch to hit," Murphy said. "When it's a tie game, it feels a little bit better."
Shreve (3-1), who hasn't allowed a run in his last eight appearances, came on with two on and two out in the bottom of the fifth and retired Travis Snider on a soft flyout to left, then pitched a 1-2-3 sixth.
"I try to ignore the situation," Shreve said. "The more pressure you put on yourself, the worse you're going to pitch."
After Shreve walked Machado to start the seventh, Girardi brought on Wilson. He struck out pinch hitter Delmon Young on three pitches and retired Adam Jones and Chris Davis to end the inning, and followed that with a perfect eighth.
Girardi has put into practice what he's said all year -- that he trusts Shreve and Wilson to get out batters from both sides of the plate, that neither should be considered a lefty specialist. And, indeed, the pair is a big part of the reason that entering Sunday Yankees lefty relievers had combined to hold righty batters to a .141 average (30-for-207) this season.
"I had good stuff today, I was able to get through two innings, get the ball to 'D' [Betances] and that was all she wrote," said Wilson, who struck out three. "It [stinks] we lost Andrew but I'm excited to pitch in more meaningful innings, but they're all fun."