BALTIMORE — Never did the old John Madden line "winning is a great deodorant" fit better.
The Yankees played one of their ugliest games of the season Friday night. However, bailed out by two solo homers by Aaron Judge and a go-ahead three-run shot by pinch hitter Gio Urshela in the seventh inning, they rallied to beat the Orioles, 5-4, in front of 10,809 at Camden Yards.
The Yankees (21-17), who have won 15 of their last 21 games, improved to 3-1 on this three-city, 10-game trip.
With the Yankees trailing 4-2 in the seventh, Miguel Andujar picked up his first hit of the season and Kyle Higashioka walked against Cole Sulser.
Urshela — who did not start because of recurring soreness in his left knee — pinch hit for Tyler Wade against righthander Travis Lakins Sr. He fell behind 1-and-2, fouled off four straight 2-and-2 pitches and won the nine-pitch at-bat by driving a cutter to right-center for his fifth homer and a 5-4 lead.
Judge was impressed with Urshela’s ability to put that kind of at-bat together after sitting on the bench the whole night.
"It’s terrible. I hate it," Judge said. "It’s a tough spot to be in . . . To jump in there like that, it’s tough to do, but Gio made it look easy tonight."
He added, "Wow. That’s what he’s done his whole career is have tough at-bats. That was what we needed. Situation like that, that’s tough, coming in off the bench. That was the swing of the night right there."
Urshela said of his approach as a pinch hitter: "You’ve got to be ready from pitch 1, I always say that. Have to be ready for that opportunity."
Speaking more generally, he added: "Be aggressive with the pitch you’re looking for. [Lakins] throws a lot of cutters, so you have to be ready for that cutter. He threw me one on the outside corner and I hit it."
Said Aaron Boone, "Glad I had that sitting over there tonight as a weapon, obviously."
Chad Green pitched a scoreless seventh and Wandy Peralta turned in a 1-2-3 eighth before allowing a leadoff single by DJ Stewart in the ninth. Jonathan Loaisiga — filling in for Aroldis Chapman, who was given a second straight day off after pitching in four of five games — got Maikel Franco to ground into a double play and induced a pop-up from Pedro Severino for his second career save.
Winning pitcher Corey Kluber (3-2, 3.48 ERA) wasn’t as sharp as in his previous four outings, allowing four runs and seven hits in six innings. He walked two and struck out six.
Thanks to Judge’s ninth and 10th homers, Kluber entered the fifth with a 2-1 lead.
Stewart led off the inning with a blooper to right-center that Judge just missed on a diving attempt. Stewart hustled to second and initially was called out as Judge made a good throw to Wade. However, the shortstop could not hang on to the ball, which trickled out of his glove, and second base umpire Tim Timmons correctly reversed his out call. The Yankees inexplicably challenged the obvious reversal, which was upheld.
After Franco grounded out, Severino ripped an RBI double into the corner in right to tie it at 2. Pat Valaika followed with an RBI single up the middle to make it 3-2. Cedric Mullins flied out, Austin Hays walked and Trey Mancini doubled to right. One run scored to make it 4-2, but Judge quickly got the ball to DJ LeMahieu, who threw Hays out at the plate to end the inning.
Mullins led off the bottom of the first with a single but was cut down trying to steal as Higashioka made a strong throw to LeMahieu, who made an even stronger tag. However, Hays got ahead 3-and-1 before hammering a sinker to left for a 1-1 tie. Kluber had gone four straight starts without allowing a homer.
Leading off the fourth, Judge crushed an inviting 2-and-1 fastball to right-center to make it 2-1. It was his 13th career multi-homer game and his ninth hit in his last 14 at-bats. Clint Frazier, who committed a cardinal sin on the basepaths here April 28 when he was thrown out at third on a grounder to short, didn’t quite equal that Friday night, but he came close. He singled with one out in the fourth but somehow was thrown out at second — a 7-4 force — when Brett Gardner flared a sinking liner to left-center that dropped in.
Boone said Frazier thought the ball was caught: "He just didn’t see it properly."