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AL East Race Down To Two Games

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NEW YORK - AUGUST 31: Hiroki Kuroda #18 of the New York Yankees walks to the dugout against the Baltimore Orioles in a game at Yankee Stadium on August 31, 2012 in the Bronx Borough of New York City. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

NEW YORK – AUGUST 31: Hiroki Kuroda #18 of the New York Yankees walks to the dugout against the Baltimore Orioles in a game at Yankee Stadium on August 31, 2012 in the Bronx Borough of New York City. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

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By MIKE FITZPATRICK
AP Sports Writer

NEW YORK (AP) _ Orioles rookie Miguel Gonzalez struck out a
career-high nine over seven shutout innings in a masterful pitching
performance and Mark Reynolds homered twice as Baltimore tightened
the AL East race Friday night with a 6-1 victory over the skidding
New York Yankees.

J.J. Hardy added a solo shot for the surprising Orioles, who
moved within two games of first-place New York by winning the
opener of their big three-game series. That’s the closest Baltimore
has been since a 11/2-game deficit on June 22, less than a month
before the Yankees opened a season-high 10-game cushion on July 18.

Buck Showalter’s young team has been gaining ground since,
winning 18 of its last 25 to head into September as serious playoff
contenders for the first time in 15 years.

Reynolds made two spectacular plays at first base and Chris
Davis had a sacrifice fly in Baltimore’s three-run second inning
against Hiroki Kuroda (12-10), the Yankees’ most consistent and
durable starter this season. The 37-year-old right-hander gave up
eight hits in 8 1-3 innings, going at least eight for the fourth
straight outing, but again was hurt by a lack of run support.

Pitching on 10 days’ rest, Gonzalez (6-3) yielded only four
harmless singles to win for the fourth time in five decisions. He
walked one and threw 66 of 97 pitches for strikes in his second win
at Yankee Stadium. The right-hander beat New York 5-4 on July 30,
setting his previous career best with eight strikeouts in 6 2-3
innings.

Featuring a fine changeup and spotting his sneaky 91-93 mph
fastball effectively, Gonzalez pitched like a poised veteran in his
10th major league start as the Orioles improved to 5-2 at Yankee
Stadium this year.

Nick Swisher whiffed all four times up for the Yankees, who have
dropped seven of 10 and nine of 14. This was the first of 10
consecutive games against Baltimore and Tampa Bay, their two
closest pursuers in the AL East.

The absence of injured sluggers Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira
is catching up with the Yankees. They have three hits in 21 at-bats
with runners in scoring position over the past two games.

Darren O’Day worked the eighth and Brian Matusz gave up Curtis
Granderson’s 34th home run in the ninth before finishing the
five-hitter.

Adam Jones and Matt Wieters opened the second inning with
consecutive singles before Davis’ sacrifice fly put the Orioles in
front. Reynolds followed with a two-run drive into the second deck.

Reynolds connected again off Derek Lowe with two outs in the
ninth. Nick Markakis added an RBI single to make it 6-0.

Hardy hit his 18th homer off Kuroda in the sixth. Baltimore has
won 18 games in a month for the first time since September 2004.

NOTES: Baltimore announced the signing of 36-year-old LHP Randy
Wolf, cut by Milwaukee last week. “Good addition,” Showalter
said. “Good option.” Both lefties in the Orioles’ bullpen are
converted starters: Wolf and Matusz. … Showalter said RHP Tommy
Hunter will have a brief outing Saturday with Double-A Bowie and
then return to the Orioles early next week. … Baltimore plans to
bring up C Luis Exposito, INF Steve Tolleson and OF Xavier Avery
from Triple-A Norfolk when rosters expand Saturday. INF Wilson
Betemit (right wrist) will be activated from the disabled list. …
It was Reynolds’ 16th career multihomer game and second this
season. The other one was Aug. 14 against Boston. … New York
juggled its rotation for this weekend. Rookie RHP David Phelps will
start Saturday instead of Sunday, and RHP Phil Hughes was moved up
from Monday to Sunday. Freddy Garcia was bumped back from Saturday
against the Orioles to Tuesday at Tampa Bay. … Rodriguez (broken
left hand) and RHP David Aardsma (Tommy John surgery) were set to
begin their rehab assignments with Class-A Tampa at Lakeland. …
Yankees LHP Andy Pettitte threw off a mound for the first time
since going on the disabled list June 28 with a broken left ankle.
… It was the first time Kuroda allowed more than three runs since
July 13 against the Los Angeles Angels. … Kevin Costner was in
the crowd of 43,352.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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