Baltimore fans are getting loud as their team challenge for the American League East crown, writes Carroll Rogers.
The Baltimore Orioles are yanking on New York's tail
So much for being a feel-good story of the first half; the Baltimore Orioles are for real.
Nobody knows it better than the New York Yankees, who got a taste of a first-place tie in the American League East on Thursday after losing for the eighth time in 15 games to the Orioles this season.
The Orioles lost on Friday to the Yankees to fall back by one game again. But they have won 10 of 14 overall and come back from being 10 games adrift in the division on July 18 to breathing down the Yankees' necks.
The Orioles made a statement on Thursday night by hitting a season-high six home runs in a 10-6 win.
Not even losing a five-run lead in the eighth inning was enough to rattle them. After the Yankees tied it 6-6, the Orioles hit three home runs in the bottom of the inning, including the game-winner from Adam Jones.
"That's the biggest hit I've ever had in my life," Jones said. "Everything else up to this point has been leading up to this."
It was a fitting tribute on the night the Orioles unveiled a Cal Ripken statue on the 17th anniversary of when he broke Yankee legend Lou Gehrig's record for consecutive games played when he started his 2,131st.
Ripken is getting caught up in the moment, too.
"This is an exciting time for this team," he told The Baltimore Sun. "I think everybody was hoping that they would continue to develop and be challenging for the wild card. But this is exciting." The Orioles are five victories from being assured of their first winning season since 1997, the year Ripken led the Orioles to their second straight trip to the American League Championship Series.
They have endured 14 straight losing seasons since.
"I've always asked our trainer, Richie Bancells, 'how loud can this place get'?" said Jones, curious about Camden Yards in the late 1990s.
"After I hit that home run, he came up to me and said, 'That's how loud this place can get'."
Jason Hammel returned from nearly two months out following knee surgery and pitched five innings, allowing only one run.
And Mark Reynolds cannot stop hitting home runs.
He has homered in three straight games and eight times in his past seven games overall. "I'm playing with a lot of confidence and so is the whole team," Reynolds said.
The Orioles, winners of 22 of their past 32 games, have 24 games left to chase down the Yankees and make history as the team that spoiled the Yankees' largest division lead in franchise history.
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