BALTIMORE — And then sometimes this game is predictable.
Tuesday night served as Exhibit A.
Yes, the Yankees have had their issues at times with some of the substandard teams, including the historically bad Orioles. They entered this series 9-7 against Baltimore, far worse than the AL East-leading Rays' 18-1 record against the Orioles.
But the same Orioles team that took two of three from the Yankees earlier this month at the Stadium was just outscored 44-19 by the Blue Jays over the weekend, including a four-inning stretch in which they allowed 27 runs.
That meant the only likely question on this night would be whether Gerrit Cole’s hamstring would make it through his outing.
Though he couldn’t quite get on track with his command — which contributed to a 29-pitch first inning — Cole was just fine, as was his hamstring. The pitching of Cole and Michael King, coupled with five home runs, led the Yankees to a workmanlike 7-2 victory in front of 10,235 at Camden Yards.
The Yankees (81-64), who got homers from Aaron Judge (No. 34), Giancarlo Stanton (No. 28), Luke Voit (No. 10), Joey Gallo (No. 34, ninth with the Yankees) and DJ LeMahieu (No. 10), pulled even with the Blue Jays, who lost to the Rays, for the top AL wild-card spot. The two teams are in a virtual tie with the Red Sox (82-65), who beat the Mariners and are .0008 behind (.5586 to .5578).
The Orioles slipped to 46-98.
"Every win is big," Aaron Boone said. "This is the fun time of year, [this is] where you want to be, chasing October baseball. It’s good to get this first one here, especially after they took two of three from us at our place."
Cole, making his first start since leaving the previous Tuesday’s start in the fourth inning because of tightness in his left hamstring, grinded through five innings, allowing one run, four hits and three walks and throwing 108 pitches. Cole — whose hamstring got an almost immediate test in the first when he successfully covered first on a grounder hit to first by the night’s third batter, Anthony Santander — struck out seven in improving to 15-7 with a 2.75 ERA.
"It felt pretty good," said Cole, who wore a wrap on the hamstring that he indicated he might not need the next time he starts. "It’s a little tough to move around with the wrap on there, but overall, the leg responded really well."
King took over for Cole in the sixth and didn't allow a hit in three scoreless innings.
"Was able to hold the line the best we could and get through five at least," said Cole, who struck out DJ Stewart with a 99-mph fastball, his final pitch of the night, to escape a first-and-third, two-out jam in the fifth. "Would have liked to pitch a little deeper but, fortunately, Mike King picked me up. He had a great night, and that was big for us."
Ten pitches into the game, the Yankees, who outhit the Orioles 13-6, had a 2-0 lead.
LeMahieu led off against Orioles lefty Alexander Wells with a single, improving him to 8 for his last 17, and Judge, showing no signs of the dizziness that forced him from Sunday night’s game against the Mets, launched a 2-and-1 changeup to right-center. It was his 12th homer in his last 36 games.
With one out in the third, Wells hit Anthony Rizzo with a curveball and Stanton hit a two-run homer to right for a 4-0 lead. Voit made it back-to-back blasts, hammering a hanging 1-and-2 curveball to left to make it 5-0.
Ryan Mountcastle had a two-out RBI double off Cole in the fifth. Gallo’s homer to right in the eighth and LeMahieu’s shot to left in the ninth made it 7-1 (Sal Romano gave one back in the bottom of the ninth).
"Jumping on top early’s always good," Stanton said. "It’s a little relief, even though you know you have to keep your foot on the gas the whole game. But it’s much better playing with a lead than trying to catch up."