Luke Voit (308434)
Credit: Wikipedia photo

The New York Yankees, struggling to gain and maintain ground in the playoff race the past few weeks, matched their season high on Tuesday night, hitting five home runs in a 7-2 win over the Baltimore Orioles to increase their record to 81-64 before last night’s game versus the Orioles. The Yankees, Toronto Blue Jays (81-64) and Boston Red Sox (82-65) were all tied for second place in the American League East behind the Tampa Bay Rays (90-55).

Aaron Judge set off the Bronx Bombers’ home run barrage in the first inning, hitting a two-run shot that was followed by blasts from Giancarlo Stanton, Luke Voit, Joey Gallo and DJ LeMahieu. The Judge and Gallo homers were the 34th of the season for each player.

Stanton and Voit hit back-to-back homers in the third inning, putting the Yankees up 5-0. Stanton’s was a two-run home run while Voit’s came with the bases empty.

“Jumping up top early is always good,” noted Stanton. “A little relief, even though you have to keep your foot on the gas the whole game. It’s much better playing with a lead than trying to catch up.”

Yankees manager Aaron Boone views the race for the playoffs as part of the joy of the sport. “This is the fun time of the year. This is where you want to be, chasing October baseball,” he said. “It’s good to get this first one here, especially after they took two out of three from us at our place.”

Tuesday’s game began a three game series for the Yanks in Baltimore. They return to the Bronx tomorrow to play six games at Yankee Stadium. The Cleveland Indians roll in first, visiting until Sunday, followed by the Texas Rangers Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

Both Cleveland and Texas are below .500 teams. But the Yankees cannot take any opponent for granted. Case in point, losing two crucial games in a three-game series to the Orioles at home at the beginning of this month. Another good sign was the return of starter Gerrit Cole from a tight left hamstring. Cole was removed from a game versus the Toronto Raptors on Sept. 7 and hadn’t pitched again until Tuesday. He (15-7) leads the American League in wins and was second in strikeouts in all of baseball with 224 after posting seven in five innings against Baltimore.