BALTIMORE — If the Yankees are going to complete their season turnaround and actually make the playoffs, they’ll have to finally beat up on the weak part of what remains of their schedule.
They failed to do that when the Orioles visited The Bronx earlier this month and took two of three.
Things returned a bit more to normal in the Yankees’ 7-2 win over Baltimore to open a series on Tuesday at Camden Yards, as Gerrit Cole gave up one run in five tough innings in his return from left hamstring tightness and the Yankees tied a season-high by hitting five homers.
Coupled with Toronto’s loss to the Rays, the Yankees moved back into a tie with the Blue Jays for the top AL wild-card spot.
“We didn’t play great against them last week at home,’’ manager Aaron Boone said of the Orioles before the game. “We have a chance to finish the season strong against them starting tonight. We’ve been a little up and down and inconsistent at times. They caught us a couple series.”
It’s a far cry from the 19-game winning streak the Yankees had against Baltimore from April 2019 through last September.
The Yankees returned to dom inating the last-place Orioles in front of a sparse crowd, with Aaron Judge taking left-hander Alexander Wells deep after DJ LeMahieu led off the game with a base hit to center.
Cole wasn’t his sharpest in the bottom of the inning, when he gave up a leadoff double to Cedric Mullins and then consecutive two-out walks to Trey Mancini and Austin Hays to load the bases.
But he recovered to whiff Ramon Urias swinging to end the 29-pitch inning.
Giancarlo Stanton had a two-run homer in the third and Luke Voit followed with his 10th of the season, as the Yankees went back-to-back.
Cole settled in and retired nine in a row before Urias had a two-out single in the fourth.
Pat Valaika reached on a bloop single to lead off the bottom of the fifth. Cole got Kelvin Gutierrez to pop out and struck out Mullins, but Ryan Mountcastle’s double to left scored Valaika to make it 5-1.
After a walk to Anthony Santander and a visit from pitching coach Matt Blake, Cole got D.J. Stewart swinging with his 108th pitch of the night.
Michael King came on and got out of a jam after Gleyber Torres’ error helped put runners on first and second with no one out in the sixth, as Torres recovered to start a double play later in the inning.
King ended up throwing three scoreless innings without giving up a hit in his second outing since returning from the injured list.
Joey Gallo hit a long homer to lead off the eighth to extend the Yankees’ lead to 6-1 and LeMahieu added his 10th an inning later.
The insurance runs came in handy when Sal Romano, signed by the Yankees again on Tuesday, pitched the ninth.
He allowed a one-out RBI single to Gutierrez and left the game with an apparent injury to his pitching hand. The Yankees — already leaning heavily on their pen of late — were forced to go to Aroldis Chapman, who got the final two outs.