Thu Sep 16 3:40am ET
A litany of "gut-punch losses" through an inconsistent four months ultimately forced the New York Yankees into pursuing a wild-card spot and not a division title.
The Yankees almost added another bad loss Wednesday but survived. They will attempt to complete a three-game road sweep when they face the Baltimore Orioles on Thursday.
New York (82-64) is seeking its fourth straight win following a 3-12 skid that came after a 13-game winning streak Aug. 14-27. The hot streak vaulted the Yankees into the first wild-card spot, but now they are in a dogfight with the Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays for the two wild-card positions.
New York nearly lost ground Wednesday when it blew a two-run lead before Brett Gardner hit a go-ahead, two-run single in the ninth inning for a 4-3 win. Gardner's hit came after pinch runner Tyler Wade and Gleyber Torres pulled off a double steal and occurred after New York's Chad Green allowed a two-run homer to Austin Hays when he was one strike away from finishing the eighth.
"That's a situation you want to be in," said Gardner, who is hitting .326 (14-for-43) in his past 12 games. "You want to be up there with the game on the line. I feel like I've been having pretty good at-bats recently and seeing the ball well."
Instead of Wednesday being placed in the same category as blowing a four-run lead at home in the ninth against the Los Angeles Angels on June 30 or the collapse against the New York Mets on July 4 or the blown four-run lead in Boston on July 25, the Yankees were able to exhale following their 11th win in 18 meetings with the Orioles this year.
Baltimore (46-99) played its best game of a five-game skid by getting two homers from Hays, a leaping catch by Cedric Mullins in center field and an effective outing by John Means. Those things occurred after the Orioles allowed 51 runs and 18 homers during the first four games of the skid.
"That was a tough one for us," Hays said. "We were able to force the issue and get the lead, but unfortunately we were not able to get the win tonight."
Hays has hit safely in 19 of his past 21 games, including a career-high 17-game hitting streak that ended in the opener of Saturday's doubleheader. He also is batting .308 (20-for-65) with six homers in his past 16 games.
The Orioles played Wednesday without Trey Mancini, who is day-to-day with soreness in his abdominal area and oblique.
After Nestor Cortes Jr. recorded 11 strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings Wednesday, the Yankees are hoping Jordan Montgomery (5-6, 3.71 ERA) rebounds from his worst outing of the season. In a Friday loss to the New York Mets, he allowed a career-high seven runs (five earned) and seven hits in 3 1/3 innings.
Montgomery will be facing the Orioles for the second time in three starts. On Sept. 4 in New York, he allowed one run on six hits in 4 2/3 innings of a no-decision.
The left-hander is 3-1 with a 3.23 ERA in 11 starts against Baltimore.
Chris Ellis (1-0, 2.08), who has allowed a total of one run in his past two outings, will make his fifth career start. Ellis last pitched against the Blue Jays on Friday, when he allowed five hits and one run in five innings for a no-decision.
Ellis will oppose the Yankees for the second time in his career. On Sept. 4, Ellis originally was credited with five hitless innings before an error by left fielder Ryan McKenna was changed to a double for Aaron Judge last week.
--Field Level Media
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