NEW YORK – Talented reliever Pedro Strop and the Baltimore Orioles built an incredible streak this summer with a big run in close games.
When the calendar suddenly turned to September, they lost their grip.
Strop lost the strike zone and sure-handed shortstop J.J. Hardy's bases-loaded error let New York complete a seventh-inning comeback as the Yankees stung Baltimore Orioles 4-3 Saturday, restoring their AL East lead to three games.
The streaking Orioles had won a team-record 13 straight one-run decisions.
"A lot of people bend, but don't break," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "It's not one of those things that we're going to dwell on. This could have been. That should have been. That would have been."
"We understand that. These guys will turn the page," he said.
Shut down all afternoon, the struggling Yankees rallied for three runs in the seventh.
Newly promoted Eduardo Nunez hit an RBI single with two outs that chased Wei-Yin Chen (12-8) and made it 3-2. Strop walked Ichiro Suzuki and then threw two quick strikes to Derek Jeter before walking him, forcing home the tying run.
"I didn't have my stuff that I usually bring," Strop said. "I don't feel my command was that good to get it done."
Nick Swisher followed with a hard, one-hop grounder that ate up Hardy, who leads major league shortstops in fielding percentage, and the Yankees took the lead.
"I think he's the best shortstop in the league. I do," Showalter said. "I don't even think twice about it."
The Yankees won for only the fourth time in 11 games, but lost another power bat when Curtis Granderson left after two innings because of tightness in his right hamstring. He was taken to the hospital for a precautionary MRI.
Manager Joe Girardi doesn't think Granderson will be sidelined along with injured sluggers Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira. He will check with his center fielder Sunday before making out his lineup.
Baltimore had won six of seven, and was looking to trim the Yankees' division lead to one game. Rather than having a chance to pull even Sunday, the Orioles need a win to avoid losing ground on their trip to the Bronx.
"We're just going to come back," Strop said. "We've got another 1 o'clock game tomorrow, and we don't have time to be thinking about it."
The Orioles were perched shoulder-to-shoulder on the dugout railing for the first pitch. Playoff contenders for the first time in 15 years, they were clearly playing a big game.
They started out well, too.
Left fielder Nate McLouth and right fielder Nick Markakis made nifty diving catches on the first two Yankees batters. Matt Wieters homered to give Baltimore a 3-0 lead in the fourth off David Phelps, and Chen seemed to be in control.
But the Orioles missed a chance to score more by grounding into three double plays, giving the Yankees a chance to rally. Each team finished with only four hits.
"We had some opportunities and we just couldn't get that big two-out hit like we did in the past couple of weeks, to kind of extend our lead there," McLouth said.
Boone Logan (6-2) pitched two scoreless innings and Rafael Soriano worked the ninth for his 35th save in 38 chances.
Chen set down the first 11 batters before Robinson Cano poked an 0-2 pitch for an opposite-field homer to left, his 28th.
Chen mixed speeds right away, keeping the Yankees off-balance. He showed Swisher a 68 mph curve in the first inning and followed with a 92 mph fastball.
NOTES: RHP Chris Tillman (7-2, 3.26 ERA) starts for the Orioles on Sunday vs. RHP Phil Hughes (13-11, 4.02). ... Baltimore's streak of one-run success was the longest in the majors since the 1984 Toronto Blue Jays won 19 straight, the Orioles said in citing the Elias Sports Bureau.