NEW YORK — Watch me hit my bird walk. Watch me hit my bird walk. Watch me hit my bird walk.
As the words of rapper Soulja Boy blared through the speakers inside the visitors’ clubhouse at Yankee Stadium late Wednesday night, the Orioles decompressed following another eventful contest. So many of them have been lately.
Baltimore improbably flipped the script in a hostile environment in the Bronx. An eight-run seventh inning — which began against Yankees starter Nestor Cortes, a longtime archnemesis for the Orioles — turned the game in the O’s favor, as they fought and clawed for a 9-6 victory. Of their 32 wins, 19 have been in comeback fashion, which ranks first in MLB.
That’s just how these Birds walk.
“We’re never out. Don’t count us out,” said Gunnar Henderson, who delivered a pinch-hit, go-ahead, two-run double during the winning rally. “We’ll battle back, and there’s no quit in this team.”
But the odds of the Orioles actually doing so didn’t seem good after six innings. They trailed, 5-1, and Cortes (a former Baltimore Rule 5 Draft pick who entered the night with a 1.01 ERA in six career starts vs. his old team) was again cruising. The only blemish on his line was a Ryan Mountcastle solo home run in the fourth. Per Statcast, the Yankees had a 95 percent win probability.
One sequence at the start of the seventh quickly changed the momentum. Anthony Santander drew a leadoff walk. Austin Hays singled. And then, with one swing, Adam Frazier got the Orioles back in it with a three-run homer that clanged off the right-field foul pole.
The never-quit O’s were at it again.
“We’re just never out of it,” said Frazier, who is 11-for-28 (.393) during a seven-game hitting streak. “One through nine, everybody can impact the game in a positive way at any moment.”
So can the guys who begin games on Baltimore’s bench, which is a testament to the club’s improved depth. Henderson was there to start the night, but he was informed by manager Brandon Hyde to stay ready for a potentially tight late-inning situation. For the Orioles — with 45 of their first 49 games having been decided by four or fewer runs — those almost always arise.
After Frazier’s homer chased Cortes, New York brought in right-hander Jimmy Cordero, the first entrant from a Yankees relief corps that began the day with an MLB-best 2.80 bullpen ERA. But Cordero promptly allowed consecutive singles to James McCann and Jorge Mateo. At that point, Hyde sent the left-handed-hitting Henderson to the plate.
Henderson gave Baltimore its first lead by ripping a double down the right-field line, plating a pair and putting the team ahead, 6-5.
However, the Orioles knew they needed more. After all, the Yankees had won Tuesday’s series opener by rallying for a 6-5, 10-inning win, overcoming an early 4-0 deficit.
“We feel like they’re never out of a game, either,” Frazier said. “So we’ve got to get as many as we can, especially here.”
So Baltimore kept going. Mountcastle plated a run with a sacrifice fly. Santander and Hays each knocked in a run with a single. And by the time the Orioles were finished, they had constructed an eight-run inning that marked their largest since a nine-run eighth during a 9-8 win over the Royals on Sept. 8, 2021.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it was only the second time in team history (since 1954) that Baltimore plated eight runs in an inning in the Bronx. The only previous occurrence was an eight-run third in a 16-3 win at old Yankee Stadium on June 5, 1989.
“A ton of fight, a ton of energy in our dugout. Nestor Cortes has given us a lot of problems in the past couple years,” Hyde said. “A huge offensive inning when we needed it.”
An early 2023 Orioles win rarely comes without drama. So of course, the Yankees immediately loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the seventh, and they remained full after Anthony Rizzo’s single cut Baltimore’s lead to 9-6.
But left-hander Danny Coulombe, who gave up that single, got the Orioles out of the jam from there and then pitched a 1-2-3 eighth. Félix Bautista worked around a two-out walk to Aaron Judge in the ninth and struck out Rizzo to end it, as Baltimore (32-17) improved to 4-1 on its American League East road trip that started with a three-game sweep in Toronto.
Is it surprising the Orioles keep finding ways to pull ahead after slow starts? Maybe to some. Not to them. Their confidence has carried over from last year, and they’re riding it to even greater heights.
“They’re bulldogs, man,” Hyde said. “They’re going out and trying to get on base and trying to get the next guy up. You can hear our dugout and you can see how excited they are for each other. It’s fun to watch right now.”