BALTIMORE -- Wild is the only word to describe this game, and wild is the only word to describe the end of this season as the Yankees continue to claw their way into a possible playoff spot. Tonight's 6-5 win over the Baltimore Orioles, their third win in four games here, doesn't pull them any closer to their goal -- the Tampa Bay Rays beat the Boston Red Sox tonight 4-3 -- but it keeps them within one game of the second AL wild-card spot with 15 games left to play.
Wildman: Orioles closer Jim Johnson, a perennial Yankees foil, singlehandedly gave them the lead in the ninth inning, allowing a leadoff single to Brendan Ryan, throwing away what should have been an easy forceout on Chris Stewart's bunt and finally wild-pitching the go-ahead run home.
Major meltdown: The O's torched David Robertson for three eighth-inning runs to tie the game at five on a long home run to left center by Danny Valencia, just three batters after Alfonso Soriano had saved him a run by pulling one back into the park (see below). The outburst was made worse by the fact it came with two outs and by the fact that manager Joe Girardi had hoped to avoid using Mariano Rivera after having used him two nights in a row and three of the past four. Of course, Girardi had to go to Mo once again, and the Incomparable One turned in a 1-2-3 ninth.
Quick hook: Joe Frazier would have been envious of the way Girardi used his hook on Phil Hughes when he pulled the starter just one batter into the fourth inning after Adam Jones reached on an error by Eduardo Nunez. In his brief appearance, Hughes allowed one run, walked one and struck out three on three hits. He can't feel too good about his manager's faith in him.
Get Huffy: Girardi went to David Huff, his other option to start this game, to relieve Hughes in the fourth, and Huff gave him three strong innings of one-hit ball until Nick Markakis led off the seventh with a home run to cut the Yankees' lead to 5-2. At that point, Girardi started wearing a path to the mound, replacing Huff with Adam Warren and Warren with Cesar Cabral to get through the inning without further damage.
No Wei out: The Yankees put up five runs on Orioles starter Wei-Yin Chen. Curtis Granderson chased him with a massive solo home run with one out in the seventh. Previously, Vernon Wells had singled in two runs in the third, but then Chen settled in to retire the next 13 Yankees and struck out nine overall. It was only a temporary reprieve, however, as Granderson drove an 0-1 fastball onto Eutaw Street on one hop.
Reynolds raps: Former Oriole Mark Reynolds showed how much he liked playing at Camden Yards in the second inning, belting Chen's 2-0 fastball into the left-field seats with Nunez on first to give the Yankees and Hughes an early 2-0 lead. It was Reynolds' fourth home run since joining the Yankees on August 16 and 19th overall this season.
Sori, Manny!: Soriano made an incredible leaping catch to rob Manny Machado of a home run to lead off the eighth inning, pulling himself over the top of the fence with his right hand and reaching behind it to pull the ball back. For a second, it was impossible to tell he had made the catch, and Machado was halfway to second before Sori showed the ball and flipped it back in, drawing a two fists in the air salute from Robertson.
Gardner out: Brett Gardner left the game following his first at-bat, a strikeout on a check-swing after which he was seen to wince and touch his left side. He was replaced in center field in the bottom of the first inning by Granderson. It was later announced Gardner had a left oblique strain, an injury that could potentially keep him out of the last 15 games of the season and possibly some early playoff games. There was no immediate word on how long he is expected to be out.
Better late than never: The first pitch was delayed an hour and 18 minutes due to a thunderstorm that brought heavy rain and some spectacular lightning to Charm City for about two hours, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
What's next: In Game 1 of a crucial (aren't they all?) three-game series with the Red Sox at Fenway Park, Hiroki Kuroda (11-10, 2.99 ERA) opposes RHP John Lackey (9-12, 3.48). The first pitch is at 7:10 p.m.