The Baltimore Orioles quickly fell behind, had their starting pitcher go out with an injury after three innings and looked lost against Phil Hughes. The finale of the first key September series for the Orioles in 15 years was not going well.
Didn't matter one bit to Mark Reynolds and his teammates.
Reynolds hit a three-run shot in the sixth inning for his second two-homer game of the weekend series and the Orioles closed in on the AL East-leading New York Yankees with an 8-3 victory Sunday.
"You look at a lot of young guys in here — they don't even know they're in the middle of a playoff race probably," Reynolds said. "Everyone in here's having fun, going out and playing hard."
Randy Wolf (1-0) made his first appearance for Baltimore when starter Chris Tillman left with right elbow stiffness after the third inning. He helped the Orioles, who haven't been to the playoffs since 1997, pull within two games of the Yankees with 3 1-3 effective innings.
Tillman will have an MRI in Baltimore on Monday but didn't think the injury was serious. In fact, he thought he could still pitch when he was lifted Sunday. He didn't think that would be fair to the club, though, with so much at stake.
"I was kind of coming down on myself hard there for coming out of the game," Tillman said. "But Randy picked me up huge — and what a series Mark had. It was fun to watch."
Reynolds made the ballpark in the Bronx his personal launching pad in this unlikely showdown between the top two teams in the division. He homered twice in Friday's victory then got Baltimore on the scoreboard Sunday when he hit a mammoth drive leading off the fifth inning. Reynolds connected shortly after being sent to the dirt by Hughes' high-and-tight offering.
Reynolds' 16th homer with none out in the sixth finished Hughes (13-12) and put Baltimore ahead 5-3.
"I thought that was Hughes' guy to get out," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "He didn't do it."
Playing under ominous gray skies, the Yankees fell to 19-23 since opening a 10-game division lead on July 18. By the time the stadium lights went on in the eighth, Baltimore was well on its way to its 19th win in 27 games.
Matt Wieters had an RBI single in helping Baltimore win its third series of the year in New York for the first time since 1976.
"Hopefully it's a sign we're becoming a little better because they've been the measuring stick for a long time," Showalter said.
September call-up Chris Dickerson gave New York a 2-0 lead in the second inning with a homer in his first at-bat of the season. But Girardi's plan in which he juggled his rotation to give Hughes a start at Yankee Stadium — where he has excelled this season — backfired.
Now the Yankees embark on a 10-game road trip against division rivals Tampa Bay, Baltimore and Boston with their first place standing in jeopardy.
"They pitch, they hit. The bottom line is they beat us and we'll see them again in a few days," Derek Jeter said of the Orioles.
With Curtis Granderson joining Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira on the bench because of right hamstring tendinitis, the Yankees used what looked to be a not-so-imposing lineup.
But the fill-ins did just fine, building a 3-1 lead after five innings.
Dickerson hit a line drive into the second deck in right field in his first at-bat of the season.
The center fielder also robbed Adam Jones of what might have been a two-run homer in the seventh inning with a leaping catch in front of New York's bullpen.
Nick Swisher had an RBI single and made two fine plays at first base in place of Teixeira. He slammed into the wall to catch a foul pop while reaching into stands in the second inning and snared Nick Markakis' scorching liner to end the third.
Despite being 6-0 in seven starts since June 26 at home, Hughes, though, couldn't hold the lead.
He walked Nate McLouth to start the sixth and Jones followed with a single. Wieters had an RBI single and Reynolds chased Hughes with a drive into the left-field bleachers, silencing a crowd that had been cheering what had been a dominant outing.
Hughes has allowed 32 homers, tying him for the major league lead with the Angels' Ervin Santana and Baltimore's Tommy Hunter. Hunter was demoted on Aug. 24. He is scheduled to be recalled Monday and will pitch out of the bullpen.
Wolf yielded an RBI single to Swisher in the fifth but got help from shortstop J.J. Hardy's sparkling diving stab to start a double play in the sixth inning — one of three double plays for the Yankees. Released by the Milwaukee Brewers on Aug. 22, Wolf gave up three hits and walked one.
"Wolfie, coming in and bringing some calmness — whatever you want to call — to the game was big," Manager Buck Showalter said.
Derek Lowe walked Robert Andino with the bases loaded in the eighth, then walked off the field to loud boos. The Yankees used eight pitchers.
Markakis added a two-run single in the eighth.
"We're in the zone right now," Markakis said.
NOTES: Reynolds has 17 multihomer games, three this season. ... Rodriguez went 0 for 7 in two rehab games for Class-A Tampa. He was scheduled to play Sunday but he was given the day off instead. Girardi said the third baseman could be activated from the DL on Monday. ... Orioles RHP Jason Hammel (right knee surgery) pitched five scoreless innings in a rehab start for Class-A Frederick on Saturday. He is scheduled to fly with the team to Toronto. Showalter said he will know what Hammel's next step is after his bullpen session this week.