BALTIMORE -- If the Yankees actually do pull this off, they might look back on Thursday night as a primary reason why.
A half-inning after the Orioles stunned them with a tying three-run homer off David Robertson, the Yankees scored the go-ahead run on Jim Johnson's wild pitch in the ninth for a 6-5 win.
It was the second time in five games that the Yankees (79-68) won on a ninth-inning wild pitch. They took three of four against the Orioles (77-69) and remained a game behind Tampa Bay in the race for the AL's second wild card. "These were big, big, big games, [winning] three games here," Mariano Rivera said. "We have to continue that."
The Yankees start a three-game series against the Red Sox at Fenway Park Friday night.
It wasn't all positive, though. Brett Gardner left the game in the first inning with a strained left oblique, sustained on a check-swing. He will be sent to New York Friday for an MRI that he acknowledged could bring news of a season-ending injury.
"It felt serious enough for me to say something and come out of the game," Gardner said. "Hopefully I get some good news tomorrow."
Rivera, honored before the game in a ceremony presided over by his first big-league manager, Orioles skipper Buck Showalter, pitched in his third straight game and fourth in the last five -- a stretch that began with outings of two innings and 11/3 innings. But the 43-year-old had no issues in retiring the side in order in the ninth.
Although Robertson technically was the pitcher of record because he finished the eighth, the official scorer credited Rivera (6-2) with the win instead of the save.
"I'm fine with that," Rivera said of the rarity of not being credited with a save in that situation. "We won."
The Yankees had been cruising much of the night, taking a 5-2 lead into the bottom of the eighth, helped by Mark Reynolds' two-run homer, Vernon Wells' two-run single and Curtis Granderson's solo homer.
Manny Machado led off against Robertson and slammed a towering drive to left, where Alfonso Soriano drifted toward the wall, then jumped. He timed his leap perfectly and came down with the ball, robbing Machado of a home run, though the crowd momentarily roared.
But there was the ball in Soriano's glove. Robertson's expression changed instantly, and he thrust both arms skyward as if signaling touchdown.
Best catch of his career? "I think so," Soriano said. "That's the first homer that I've stolen from somebody."
Said Robertson: "I thought it was way gone."
Robertson ended up being right about that feeling later in the inning when, after Adam Jones and Nick Markakis singled with two outs, Danny Valencia slammed his first-pitch fastball well over the left-centerfield wall for a 5-5 tie.
"I was really down when I came into the dugout because I knew I potentially had just given up a chance for us to win this ballgame," Robertson said. "I don't usually give up three runs in an inning, but it happened tonight. Fortunately the guys picked me up."
In the ninth, the Yankees got a leadoff single from their newest player, Brendan Ryan. Chris Stewart bunted back to Johnson, who had a good shot to retire Ryan but fired the ball into centerfield. Granderson's bunt moved the runners to second and third and Johnson's wild pitch allowed Ryan to score to make it 6-5.
With runners on first and third and one out, with the chance to give Rivera a cushion, Soriano then hit into a double play -- but Rivera didn't need the extra run.
Meanwhile, Joe Girardi's tag-team idea of piggy-backing Phil Hughes with David Huff worked out well. Hughes allowed one run and three hits in three innings-plus and Huff allowed one run and two hits in three innings.
"It's important," Girardi said. "We need to continue to win and we need to continue to take series if we want to play in October."