BALTIMORE — Discussing yet another player landing on the Yankees’ ever-expanding injured list late Thursday morning, Aaron Boone said it’s part of what teams go through during the long season.
“Every team on some level’s going to get punched in the mouth a little bit,” the manager said.
The Yankees, with Gleyber Torres leading the way, finally punched back.
Now the club’s shortstop with Troy Tulowitzki put on the IL on Thursday, Torres hit two home runs, the latter a critical three-run blast in the sixth inning that put the Yankees ahead for good in an 8-4 victory over the Orioles in front of a home-opener crowd of 44,182 at Camden Yards.
“Gleyber Day,” said Aaron Judge, borrowing John Sterling’s home run call for Torres. “It was impressive. He came up big in certain situations where we needed someone to come up with a big hit for us. He was the catalyst of this win for us.”
Torres, third in the AL Rookie of the Year voting last year, had his first career 4-for-4 day and totaled four RBIs.
The Yankees, who trailed 4-1 going into the sixth and were coming off season-opening series losses to the Orioles and Tigers at the Stadium, improved to 3-4 heading into Friday’s off day.
“The first two series we lost and for sure we felt mad, but it was also motivation,” said Torres, who is hitting .357 with a 1.022 OPS. “We’re a really good team.”
After scoring only five runs in the previous three games, the Yankees (12 hits) accounted for all eight of their runs with four homers. Gary Sanchez and Luke Voit also went deep, with Voit’s three-run homer off Miguel Castro making it 8-4 in the ninth.
Torres hit his first homer of the season in the third off righthander Alex Cobb. After doubling in the fifth, Torres stepped in against righthander Mike Wright Jr. with two on and two outs in the sixth and fell behind 0-and-2. He then slammed a 95-mph fastball over the leftfield fence to make it 5-4.
It set off a mini-celebration in the Yankees’ dugout.
“We were fired up,” Boone said. “We’ve had our opportunities and just haven’t been able to cash in. To finally get a big one there, I think in the dugout there was some emotion and energy that thing brought.”
Said Torres: “Just trying to do damage. I just tried to hit it really hard.”
In a bit of a twist, the homers came off the same pitchers — Cobb and Wright — who served up the blasts in Torres’ only previous two-homer game last Aug. 1 against Baltimore.
Sanchez’s third homer, a shot to center off Cobb, started the four-run sixth. Greg Bird greeted Wright with a single and DJ LeMahieu, after falling in an 0-and-2 hole, kept it going with a single. Wright had a disastrous day, allowing three runs and four hits and failing to retire a batter.
James Paxton overcame some early command issues that contributed to a three-run first for the Orioles (4-3) and gave the Yankees 5 1⁄3 innings. The lefthander allowed four runs, eight hits and two walks, striking out nine. Paxton balked in a run in the first and threw a wild pitch in the inning that allowed another run to score.
Tommy Kahnle got a big double play to end the sixth after taking over for Paxton and pitched a scoreless seventh. Zack Britton stranded two in the eighth and, after Voit’s homer pushed the margin to four runs, Aroldis Chapman pitched a scoreless ninth, allowing a hit and striking out one.
“That was rough,” Paxton said of his 32-pitch first inning. “I didn’t have a great feel for the strike zone today but just had to battle for my team. They did a great job coming back. The hitters picked me up.”