The way they performed on Saturday, it felt as if the Yankees were playing the Orioles on their X-Box. Runs crossed the plate in droves. Jordan Montgomery spotted his fastball and mixed in his slider and his curveball. Until a shaky ninth inning of their 9-3 win at the Stadium, the Yankees were putting the game in “ballgame.’’
“Right now, we’re in a nice little run, we understand what we’re capable of and we get runs by the bunches,” said Todd Frazier, one of three Yankees to homer. “It’s been a lot of fun to watch and be a part of.”
Yes, it’s a pretty good time to be a Yankee. Priming for the postseason in the rebuilding year that wasn’t, they won for the fourth straight game, the seventh time in eight games and the 11th time in 14 games. They are 16 games over .500 for the first time this season and own a five-game lead over the Twins, who hold the second wild-card spot.
The Yankees have outscored the Orioles 30-10 in the first three games of the four-game series, barely breaking a sweat in their effort to draw closer to the AL East-leading Red Sox. They’ve also scored 150 runs in 18 games against the Orioles this season.
The Yankees have gone deep nine times in this series: five three-run homers, two two-run blasts and two solo shots. They’re hitting .337 and have a .653 slugging percentage in the three games.
“It’s been really good and it’s come from all kinds of places in our lineup, different places every day,” Joe Girardi said. “Everyone contributing and it’s what we did more the first two months and a week of the season, and then we went through some stuff and we struggled, and we’ve gotten back on track.”
Didi Gregorius hit a three-run homer, giving him two homers and seven RBIs in the last two games. Greg Bird hit a three-run shot into the second deck in rightfield, his fourth homer in 17 games since returning from the disabled list, and Frazier added a two-run homer in the seventh to give the Yankees a 9-0 lead. Jacoby Ellsbury went 3-for-4 with a double and an RBI and Gregorius also had three hits.
Add to that the fact that Montgomery (8-7, 4.06 ERA) — the rookie fifth starter who’s been something of a question mark in this rotation — had one of his strongest outings of the year. He allowed four hits in six shutout innings, walking one, striking out six and throwing 95 pitches. It was the longest appearance since his last win, on July 25 against Cincinnati, and the second scoreless appearance of his career.
“I think this was important for him,” Girardi said. “Part of it is us, backing him off a little bit, because we were somewhat concerned because he’s never really pitched the whole month of September in his career, so we were a little bit concerned. I think it was really meaningful . . . His slider was really, really good today and I think it kept them off-balance. A lot of times, it’s fastball, curveball, changeup, but some of his really good starts, he’s had a really good slider. That’s what he had tonight.”
The pitching stumbled only in the ninth, when Austin Hays hit a two-run homer off Chasen Shreve before Shreve allowed three two-out walks. Giovanny Gallegos came in and balked home a run before recording the final out. But by then, the runs were more of an inconvenience than a threat.
Gregorius opened the scoring with his three-run homer to rightfield off Jeremy Hellickson in the third after Chase Headley and Aaron Judge drew two-out walks.
The Yankees added three more in the fourth. Ellsbury led off with a double and Frazier walked to set the stage for Bird, whose three-run homer put the Yankees up 6-0 and spelled the end for Hellickson, who was replaced by Chris Tillman.
Ellsbury singled home Gregorius with one out in the fifth to make it 7-0. Headley’s single in the sixth extended his hitting streak to 14 games.
It took three hours, 37 minutes, but it seemed as easy as could be. After all, for now, the Yankees are playing with all the cheat codes.