NEW YORK -- All along, the Orioles knew this was going to be a huge road trip, two series looming in cities where they have struggled to win, particularly this season.
So far, Baltimore hasn't just answered the critics, they've defied them. The O's, fresh off a series win in Toronto, rode three homers in a six-run fifth inning to Friday's 8-1 series-opening win at Yankee Stadium. The victory, the Orioles' third straight on the road, has the offense rolling and the team closing in on an American League Wild Card spot.
"We got a power team, and everybody is capable to catch one," said Jonathan Schoop, who hit one of the homers and drove in five runs. "The power is just one thing. We pitch, we defend, and we prove that we score not only when we hit home runs. We score when we move the runner over, sac fly, everything. We're a really good team."
The O's magic number to clinch a playoff spot is down to two, and they have a one-game lead over Toronto for the top AL Wild Card spot. A win Saturday -- coupled with a loss by the Jays or the Tigers -- would secure a spot in the AL Wild Card Game for the Orioles, who would clinch home-field advantage for that game if they win and both Toronto and Detroit lose.
"This past week or so, every one's important," winning pitcher Yovani Gallardo said Friday. "Every game's really important for us, and we understand what we have to do."
Friday's win, which saw Adam Jones, Mark Trumbo and Schoop go deep, marked the O's most runs scored since Sept. 10 at Detroit. The offense, which had been limited to three runs or fewer in 10 of the previous 12 games, looks to be back. And the rotation has been superb.
Gallardo's six-inning quality start, on the heels of a gem by Ubaldo Jiménez, lowered the O's starter ERA to 1.85 through four games of this road trip. Baltimore starters have allowed just five earned runs over 24 1/3 innings.
"It's been like that the past few games; we've been getting some real solid starts," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said of his rotation. "Our guys gave [Gallardo] some margin for error. I thought when we scored the six, for him to go out there and throw a zero up there, that was big. We were a wet ball away from [Gallardo] pitching six shutout innings."
Added Schoop: "Everybody believes in each other. Since Day One we believe in each other because nobody believed in us, but we believed in each other and for us to go to the playoffs."