BALTIMORE — There just might be a race for the AL East title after all.
The Yankees, behind three-hit, two-RBI games from Miguel Andujar and Luke Voit and a decent outing by Luis Severino, completed a four-game sweep of the at-times-comically-bad Orioles with a 5-3 win Sunday night at Camden Yards.
Though it wasn’t pretty, the Yankees (83-47) won for the 15th time in their last 20 games and moved within six games (five in the loss column) of the Red Sox (90-42).
“Honestly, tonight, I thought we were dragging a little bit,” Aaron Boone said. “Just with the road trip and the doubleheader yesterday. I thought guys really grinded to hang on there.”
Six games isn’t a reason to plunge the champagne into ice, but the Yankees have made up 4 ½ games in eight days. They had trailed by 10 1/2 games on Aug. 18 and 9 1/2 games entering the weekend.
“I never stopped believing that was possible,” Boone said before the game, referring to capturing a division crown.
The Yankees, who have won eight of their last nine and are a season-high 36 games over .500, have taken advantage of a schedule loaded with tomato cans. They have seven more games against them this week as the White Sox (51-79) and Tigers (53-78) visit the Stadium.
“We’re not thinking about the Red Sox, we’re thinking about the Yankees winning games,” Severino said. “We have a great record. If we continue playing like we’re playing right now, we’re going to be good.”
Andujar has been better than good of late. After totaling four hits in Saturday’s doubleheader sweep of the Orioles (who fell to 37-94 on Sunday), Andujar entered the final game of the series with a .300/.330/.526 slash line. He promptly collected hits in his first three at-bats, including a two-out, two-run double to rightfield that gave the Yankees a 4-0 lead in the third.
He entered Sunday leading all MLB rookies in batting average, extra-base hits (59), doubles (36), RBIs (70) and multi-hit games (43) and was tied for the rookie lead in homers with 21.
Voit, again starting for the slumping Greg Bird at first, had his second three-hit game of the series, including a two-run homer to right-center in the second that put the Yankees ahead for good. He also singled and scored on a two-out wild pitch in the sixth to make it 5-1.
“I know I can hit,” said Voit, who plays with an obvious enthusiasm. “Aaron’s giving me a chance and it feels good. This is my chance to kind of show everyone what I’ve got and I’m just kind of having fun with it. I know I can play.”
Severino, 3-4 with a 7.02 ERA in his previous eight starts, a stretch in which he allowed 11 homers, allowed three runs (two earned) in 5 2/3 innings. The righthander walked two and struck out eight in improving to 17-6 with a 3.27 ERA.
“Command of the fastball was good,” Severino said. “Changeup was there, too. That made me a three-pitch pitcher. When I can command my fastball with that velocity, I’m a way better pitcher.”
Chad Green allowed an inherited runner to score in the sixth, which cut the Orioles’ deficit to 5-3, but the bullpen allowed no more. Former Oriole Zach Britton pitched 1 2/3 scoreless innings and David Robertson threw a scoreless ninth for the save.
Baltimore righthander Dylan Bundy came in 7-12 with a well-earned 5.31 ERA, having allowed seven earned runs in each of his last three starts and 13 homers in his previous six starts. He was good by comparison Sunday, allowing four runs and six hits in five innings.
The Yankees will try to put even more pressure on Boston on Monday night. “Hopefully we can get some guys some rest,” Boone said, “and start a big series tomorrow against a really hot pitcher [lefthander Carlos Rodon] for the White Sox.”