With a 4-2 win over the injury-depleted Yankees at Camden Yards, the Orioles completed a three-game sweep for the first time this season and officially announced to the country that they're not backing down in the American League East. The win helped Baltimore (47-36) keep pace with the division-leading Red Sox, who beat the Blue Jays in walk-off fashion Sunday.
"I think more and more people are getting to see us play and kind of understand what we've got going on here," said slugger Chris Davis, who belted his Major League-leading 31st home run. "We've got belief in ourselves dating back to last year. People got to see us a little at the end of the season on the national stage. But the more they see us and the more we win, the better for us."
On a night in which starter Chris Tillman picked up his 10th win and the Orioles welcomed Brian Roberts back to the lineup, Davis and Manny Machado made their presence felt throughout the tightly contested ballgame.
A week shy of his 21st birthday, Machado got the scoring started with a one-out homer in the first. His first four-bagger since May 5 was also the 13th of his career, and gives him the most by any Orioles player before turning 21. He passed Boog Powell, who had 12 by his 21st birthday in 1962.
His third-inning double was his 38th of the season, the second most in the Majors through the end of June since 1921, according to STATS, Inc.
Not to be outdone, Davis led off the second inning in his now customary fashion -- by taking an opposing pitcher deep. He took Yankees starter Hiroki Kuroda to the opposite field for his 31st home run. He now stands alone atop the club's all-time list for homers before the All-Star Game, surpassing Brady Anderson's 30 in 1996. He has the most homers of anyone through 83 team games since 2001, when Barry Bonds had 39 and Luis Gonzalez had 35.
Tillman pitched six solid innings and allowed just two runs to pick up his 10th win. Tillman went 6-0 in the month of June and has now earned a win in seven of his past eight starts. He said the players fed off the energy in the park, which was considerably more intense than other June contests.
"I remember thinking to myself, 'Wow, this is pretty loud right now,'" Tillman said. "They supported us all the way through, win or lose, and you've got to appreciate it."
The atmosphere at Camden Yards was buzzing most of the night, and the more the tense game played out, the more the fans showed their appreciation.
"It was cool," manager Buck Showalter said of the atmosphere. "I turned to [bench coach John Russell] right before the game started and said, 'Boy, this place is hoppin.' You could tell there was some real energy in the park and it meant a lot to us, but we've got to continue to do the things that keep our fans energized."
"Even before the game, when we were out there getting ready, you could kind of feel the buzz in the stadium," Davis said. "It did kind of have that playoff feel -- close game, the fans were obviously in it. It was a fun atmosphere to play in."
The announced crowd of 40,878 also warmly acknowledged Roberts -- back in the lineup from the 60-day disabled list for the first time since April 4 -- when the designated hitter stepped to the plate for his first at-bat.
"It's just fun to be back around the guys and play the game. And obviously the atmosphere tonight, our city has fully embraced this team again and this organization and it's great to be a part of," Roberts said.
Roberts lined a single to center in his second at-bat and added an insurance run when he plated Matt Wieters on a sacrifice fly in the seventh to make it 4-2.
The Yankees scored a run in the second when Tillman got himself into a bases-loaded jam. Tillman gave up a single to open the inning and then got the next two batters out. But a single and a walk had Tillman in a bind. He walked Brett Gardner to push a run across, but Ichiro Suzuki popped to shortstop to end the inning and leave the bases full of Yankees.
From there, Tillman settled down and got through the sixth inning. He gave up just one more run -- a Robinson Cano home run to lead off the sixth -- and left in line for his sixth win of the month.
The Orioles last hosted a Sunday night ESPN baseball game on July 31, 2005. And sweeping the Yankees at home for the first time since April 2005 was not lost on the players. It was also the fifth consecutive win at home against the Yankees. The last time the Orioles accomplished that was a 10-game winning streak from 1981-83.
Although the calendar hadn't yet flipped to July, players didn't back off from calling it a big sweep.
McLouth, Davis and closer Jim Johnson all said sweeping the Yankees was important, even if it's not yet the All-Star break.
"When you can sweep a division opponent, that's big," said McLouth, who homered in the third and added his first outfield assist of the season. "It was nice to come out with a sweep finally."
"I know it probably was on the fans' part," Showalter said. "When you've gotten your nose bloodied as much as we have through the years, every opportunity to take another step toward where you want to go is ... it certainly touches your emotions."
Troy Patton and Tommy Hunter combined to pitch the eighth inning for the Orioles before Johnson pitched the ninth for his Major League-leading 28th save. Johnson gave up a leadoff double and hit a batter before closing out the 100th save of his career.
"They're a good team. We knew that coming in," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "They have a lot of offensive power."