Adam Jones had heard tales about how Camden Yards used to be when the place was packed and the Orioles were in a pennant race.
With one dramatic swing of the bat, Jones found out for himself just how crazy the place can get.
Jones hit the first of Baltimore’s three home runs in a wild eighth inning, and the Orioles climbed back into a first-place tie with the Yankees in the AL East by defeating New York 10-6 Thursday night before a euphoric sellout crowd.
Mark Reynolds had two of Baltimore’s season-high six home runs. Matt Wieters and Robert Andino also connected for the Orioles, who have won 10 of 13 — a run that includes three of four over New York.
Jones’ leadoff homer in the eighth off David Robertson (1-6) put Baltimore ahead 7-6 after the Yankees rallied from a five-run deficit in the top half.
”I’ve always asked our trainer, Richie Bancells, how loud can this place get? I always asked that,” Jones said. ”After I hit that home run, he came up to me and said, `That’s how loud this place can get.”’
Jones has hit many a game-winning home run, but none with the stakes so high.
”That’s the biggest hit I’ve ever had in my life. Everything else up to this point has been leading up to this,” he said.
Wieters followed with a single and Reynolds hit a drive into the left-field seats. Chris Davis then slammed the first pitch from Boone Logan over the right-field wall.
After trailing the Yankees by 10 games on July 18, the surging Orioles pulled even Tuesday, then dropped a game back on Wednesday before taking the opener of this important four-game series.
”They are playing with a lot of confidence right now,” New York’s Alex Rodriguez said. ”You have to tip your hat to Baltimore.”
Reynolds, who also went deep in the sixth, has homered in three straight games and has eight long balls in his last seven, including two in each of the three wins against New York. With Reynolds leading the way, the Orioles hit a half-dozen home runs in a game for the first time since Aug. 28, 2007, against Tampa Bay.
Baltimore has played several significant games in September in recent years, but this is the first time since 1997 that the Orioles have been in the hunt for a playoff berth. The fans reacted accordingly, cheering from the first pitch to the very end.
”You couldn’t ask for better,” manager Buck Showalter said. ”A special environment. Really appreciative. It helped. It was a real difference-maker for us.”
The Yankees always attract huge crowds, but this time an estimated 90 percent of those in attendance were cheering for the home team. The full house and the boisterous orange-clad fans conjured memories of a time long ago, when Baltimore made two straight playoff appearances in 1996-97 prior to a run of 14 consecutive losing seasons.
”It looked like a big tangerine,” Jones said. ”I liked that.”
New York trailed 6-1 in the eighth before mounting a comeback fueled by four walks. After Alex Rodriguez hit an RBI double and Curtis Granderson singled in a run, the Yankees put runners on second and third with two outs. The fans rose to their feet in anticipation after Pedro Strop prepared to throw a 1-2 pitch to Russell Martin, but Strop ultimately issued a walk to load the bases for pinch-hitter Chris Dickerson, who drew a four-pitch walk to make it 6-4.
Ichiro Suzuki followed with his third hit, a two-run single, before Darren O’Day (7-1) got the final out.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi derived little satisfaction from the comeback.
”When you’re playing a team for first place, a loss is a loss,” he said. ”We swung the bats extremely well, but we didn’t pitch well tonight.”
Orioles starter Jason Hammel gave up one run and six hits in five-plus innings in his first outing since going on the disabled list in mid-July. The right-hander took a line drive by Robinson Cano off his elbow in the fourth, but stayed in the game.
After Hammel warmed up the rowdy fans with a 1-2-3 first, three straight singles against David Phelps in the bottom half produced a run before Wieters hit an opposite-field, three-run drive to left for a 4-0 lead. It was his 19th home run of the season and the first since he connected off Phelps on Saturday.
New York got a run in the fourth on Cano’s hit off Hammel’s arm and an RBI single by Granderson. In the Baltimore half, Andino hit his career-high sixth home run to make it 5-1.
Reynolds made it 6-1 with a solo shot off Joba Chamberlain.
NOTES: On the 17th anniversary of the day Cal Ripken Jr. broke Lou Gehrig’s mark of consecutive games played, the Orioles unveiled a statue of the Iron Man in the picnic area beyond the center-field wall. Ripken is the fifth of Baltimore’s six Hall of Fame stars to be so honored this season; the last will be Brooks Robinson. … Yankees 1B Mark Teixeira (strained left calf) jogged lightly in the outfield at Camden Yards before the game and said he’s close to returning to the lineup. .. Cano played 2B for the first time since suffering left hip soreness on Monday. … Girardi said LHP Andy Pettitte (broken ankle) will throw a simulated game at some point this weekend. Pettitte has been on the DL since June 28. … Baltimore improved to 8-7 against New York this season. … The Orioles will send rookie Wei-Yin Chen to the mound Friday night and the Yankees will start Phil Hughes.