Giancarlo Stanton singled to center to drive in ghost runner Aaron Judge with none out in the bottom of the 11th inning to give the Yankees a much-harder-than-it-should-have-been 4-3 victory over the lowly Orioles before 34,085 on Friday night at Yankee Stadium.
Stanton, who blasted a 424-foot home run in the fourth inning, hit a 121.1-mph grounder up the middle for the winner.
"He is in a great spot, having good at-bats," manager Aaron Boone said. "He’s locked in and focused and carrying out his plan really well right now."
It was the Yankees’ ninth walk-off win of the season and Stanton’s eighth career walk-off hit (second of 2021).
"We always have confidence in G," Tyler Wade said. "He’s a freak of nature and he comes up big time in those spots. He’s been swinging the bat well lately and he’s been on a tear. Big night for him and a big win for us."
The Yankees improved to 49-27 in games decided by two or fewer runs, and Boone said: "The one thing I would say is we’re comfortable in those spots. But it is nice that in these close games, our guys seem to play their best."
The Yankees, who hold the top AL wild-card spot by 1 1⁄2 games over the Red Sox, remained 6½ games behind the AL East-leading Rays.
The Yankees improved to 9-5 vs. Baltimore. The Rays went 18-1 against the Orioles this season.
The Orioles (41-92) have the fewest wins in the majors and came into the game with a 5.84 ERA, but they played the Yankees toe-to-toe until the end.
Winning pitcher Clay Holmes (3-0 with the Yankees) worked around the ghost runner and a leadoff single in the 11th by getting a pop-up to second, a shallow fly ball to right and a strikeout to keep the Orioles from scoring.
"He really went to work and was rock-solid," Boone said. "Huge performance by him to wiggle out [of it]."
The teams traded runs in the 10th. Ryan Mountcastle’s one-out RBI single off Wandy Peralta gave the Orioles a 3-2 lead and DJ LeMahieu’s one-out RBI single in the bottom half tied it.
LeMahieu took second on the throw and moved to third on a wild pitch, but Joey Gallo popped out and Judge grounded out.
Orioles starter John Means, who no-hit the Mariners on May 5, didn’t allow a hit until Stanton swung at an outside changeup and drove it into the ambulance bay in left-center with two outs in the fourth for the game’s first run.
It was Stanton’s 26th home run, sixth in his last nine games and eighth in the last 14 games.
"It’s been awesome, helping us win," he said. "Putting up some good numbers at the same time, it’s huge. But most important is the wins."
The Yankees made it 2-0 in the fifth when Rougned Odor walked, moved to third on a single by Gary Sanchez (batting ninth for the first time in his career) and scored on LeMahieu’s line- drive sacrifice fly to right.
Nestor Cortes threw 5 2⁄3 shutout innings for the Yankees before Trey Mancini homered into the second deck in left to make it a 2-1 game.
Boone called in Jonathan Loaisiga, who struck out Ramon Urias to end the inning, but he gave up a tying homer by former Yankees prospect Jorge Mateo in the seventh.
Gleyber Torres went 0-for-4 in his return from a 22-game absence because of a thumb injury. Torres, who hit two balls well to deep left-center (388 and 387 feet), probably will get Saturday off, Boone said. "I’ll probably ease him in a little bit, give him a day here and there as we build him up," he said. "But I know he’s been feeling and champing at the bit for the better part of a week to get back in."
The Yankees have five games left with Baltimore, but Boone doesn’t believe they need to win all of them to have a chance to overtake the Rays.
"We can’t win Sunday’s game today or Saturday’s game today," he said before the game. "So the way I look at it is we’ve got to get ready for John Means and the Orioles tonight . . . John Means is a really good pitcher. They have guys within their lineup that are capable of doing damage if we don’t execute. Our focus is on the day, is on getting ready for this opponent, and hopefully if we go play well, we’re shaking hands at the end of it and then we move on. But I try not to get too far past it."