With the eyes of the entire baseball world fixed on Camden Yards for the first time in eight years, the Orioles didn't disappoint.
Over the course of a 162-game season, some wins can get lost, but the Orioles' 4-2 victory over the Yankees on Sunday night was one that will likely resonate in the hearts of fans in Baltimore for a while.
For the first time since July 31, 2005, the Orioles hosted Sunday Night Baseball, ESPN's hand-picked weekly showcase game. And in front of a national audience, playing the only game on the schedule at the time, the burgeoning Orioles unveiled their promise — and power — to the baseball world while sweeping the struggling Yankees out of town.
“When you've gotten your nose bloodied as much as we have through the years,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said, “every opportunity to take another step toward where you want to go ... it certainly touches your emotions."
The ESPN broadcast spent most of the night highlighting the Orioles' blossoming stars — first baseman Chris Davis and third baseman Manny Machado — and the pair did their share to write the perfect TV script.
In recording their first three-game sweep of the season, the Orioles hit three solo home runs against Yankees right-hander Hiroki Kuroda — including Davis' league-leading 31st of the season and Machado's first homer in 219 at-bats — in front of an announced crowd of 40,878 that included managing partner Peter Angelos watching from his suite.
“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. I think we kind of feed off the crowds, especially when we’re playing a team like the Yankees because we know they travel well. And when you can hear our fans drowning out their fans, it’s a good feeling.”
Moments before closer Jim Johnson brought the go-ahead run to the plate and ultimately recorded the final out of the night for his 100th career save, the crowd began chanting "Sweep the Yankees." A grounder to second base ended the game, sending the Orioles to their fourth straight win and the Yankees down the steps of the visiting dugout having been dominated.
Against a New York team devoid of its typical star power, the Orioles (47-36) completed a three-game home sweep of the Yankees for the first time since April 15-17, 2005. The Orioles entered the weekend just one game ahead of the Yankees for second place in the American League East standings, but Sunday's win sent New York (43-40) into fourth place in the division.
The win also marked the Orioles' fifth straight against the Yankees at home for the first time since Oct. 3, 1981 to June 21, 1983, when the O's took 10 straight from New York in Baltimore.
The last time the Orioles played on Sunday Night Baseball, Kuroda tossed a complete-game shutout against the O's at Yankee Stadium on April 14.
It wouldn't go as smoothly for Kuroda — who had allowed just nine homers in his previous 16 starts this season — this time.
Machado, who also hit his league-leading 38th double of the season, hit his first homer since May 5 in the first inning, taking three breaking balls down in the zone before lining an elevated slider into the left-field seats for his sixth homer of the season.
Machado, who had three hits on the night, recorded his 34th multi-hit game of the season.
Since his callup last August, Machado has hit 13 major league homers, breaking the Orioles' team record for the most by a player before his 21st birthday set by Boog Powell in 1961 and 1962.
With his 31st homer of the season — a solo shot in the second inning — Davis broke the Orioles' club record for most homers before the All-Star break, set by Brady Anderson in 1996 on his way to a team-record 50 homers. But after 83 games, Davis is on pace to smash that mark with 60 homers in 2013. His 31 homers are the most by the end of June since 2001, when Barry Bonds hit 39 and Luis Gonzalez had 32.
Davis' homer, his third in the past two games, came on a 2-1 sinker that the first baseman sat back on and sent the opposite way beyond the left-center field fence.
Nate McLouth hit his second homer of the series, a solo shot that landed over the scoreboard in right field to give the Orioles a 3-1 lead.
Orioles right-hander Chris Tillman ended June with his sixth win this month, marking the first time an O's pitcher won six games in one month since Rodrigo Lopez in July 2002.
Despite battling a high pitch count early, Tillman (10-2) won his seventh straight decision and his sixth straight start. He entered the night carrying an 8.16 career lifetime ERA against the Yankees, but he held New York to two runs on five hits over six innings.
Over his past six starts this month, Tillman has pitched to a 2.68 ERA and has recorded five quality starts. Very quietly, Tillman has grown to become one of the Orioles' most dependable starters. Since June 25, 2012, he is 18-5, and his .783 winning percentage in that span trails only Detroit's Max Scherzer (22-2, .917) and Oakland's Bartolo Colon (15-4, .789) among AL starters with at least 12 decisions in that span.
Tillman loaded the bases in the second inning — and allowed the first Yankees run on a two-out, bases-loaded walk to leadoff man Brett Gardner — but averted further damage by inducing an inning-ending pop-up from Ichiro Suzuki.
Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts, reinstated from the 60-day disabled list before the game, made his first start at Camden Yards in nearly a year. Roberts, who injured his right hamstring three games into the regular season this year in Tampa Bay, received a standing ovation from a smattering of fans when he stepped to the plate for the first time at Camden Yards since last July 1 — his 2012 season ended just 17 games in with a hip injury.
“My first at-bat was definitely special for me,” said Roberts, who had been limited to 118 games over the past four seasons because of injuries. “To be here as long as I have and go through so many ups and downs, you don’t really know sometimes if people are just tired of you or [if] they really want you out there still. I said to somebody that I think my journey people can relate to.”
In his second at-bat, Roberts — who was the club's starting designated hitter in his first game since April 4 — singled to center off Kuroda in the fifth inning.
Orioles reliever Darren O'Day walked the No. 7 and No. 9 hitters in the seventh to put two on with no out, but O'Day retired lefties Gardner and Ichiro Suzuki to end the threat.
Kuroda (7-6) lasted six innings, but was chased from the game in the seventh after Matt Wieters opened the frame with a single, following by a J.J. Hardy double. Wieters would score on Roberts' sacrifice fly to medium center field to give the Orioles a 4-2 lead.
After Troy Patton and Tommy Hunter combined for a perfect eighth inning, Johnson converted his 28th save of the season, despite bringing the go-ahead run to the plate.
Johnson, making his first appearance since blowing a save and taking a loss Wednesday, allowed a leadoff double to Lyle Overbay and hit Chris Stewart with a pitch with one out.
The Orioles closer recovered, striking out David Adams on a foul tip and then getting Gardner to ground into a game-ending fielder's choice to second baseman Alexi Casilla.
“I think we can compete every night,” Johnson said. “Our offense is one of the best. You’re witnessing something special in what Chris Davis is doing and our defense, every night there’s something exciting that’s going to happen when we’re playing. It makes coming to the ballpark fun. We all get along and we talked about chemistry last year and that’s carried over to this year. I think we’re all excited to where this ends up taking us.”