BALTIMORE -- Perhaps it was the spirit of Mike Flanagan -- the former Orioles pitcher, team executive and broadcaster whose passing Wednesday was honored in a pregame tribute on Friday night -- which prompted one of the most memorable Baltimore wins of the season.
Or maybe the Orioles' home run barrage was the result of the early gusts of Hurricane Irene, whose expected arrival already prompted the O's to cancel both of Saturday's scheduled games.
It could have been as simple as Yankees starter A.J. Burnett -- whose backslide continued -- serving up a steady diet of belt-high pitches, as the right-hander allowed nine earned runs in a rough five-inning outing in a 12-5 Baltimore victory over the Yankees at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
But whatever the reason, Friday's series-opening win over New York provided some much-needed solace for an Orioles organization -- already victim to an under-performing on-field product -- rocked by the news of Flanagan's death.
"I thought about it, I'm sure some of our guys did, too," said Orioles manager Buck Showalter, who was hesitant to add any more significance to an emotionally charged night which featured Flanagan's number 46 on the out-of-town scoreboard for the duration of the game.
"Winning, losing, with some of the things going on. You'd a lot rather win, obviously," Showalter added. "I know Mike would have certainly liked it. I can tell you that."
That Friday's emphatic win came against an American League East rival, and the resident bully at that, was even sweeter, as the O's extended their winning streak, tying a season high by winning their fifth straight, and picking up just their second win in 11 games against the Yankees in the process.
Following a video tribute to Flanagan, which played on the JumboTron at Camden Yards prior to the second inning, the Orioles scored six runs off Burnett, who threw 38 pitches in a frame highlighted by home runs by Mark Reynolds and J.J. Hardy.
"[Flanagan] touched a lot of people," said Orioles starter Tommy Hunter, who watched as the O's sent nine men to the plate in the second inning alone, capping a frame that started with images of Flanagan's decorated playing days.
"That's very evident. ... Guys loved him," added Hunter.
The Orioles piled on another run in the fourth and a pair in the fifth before chasing Burnett from the game, and catcher Matt Wieters pushed the score to double-digits with a three-run homer in the sixth off Yankees reliever Luis Ayala.
"It was a big game to win," Wieters said of a contest that started with a moment of silence and ended in a fitting farewell. "Glad to play well today."
Wieters' blast extended the O's lead to 11 runs, and big nights from Nolan Reimold and Hardy, who each collected three RBIs, helped Baltimore buck the trend of Yankees dominance. The Orioles entered Friday's game having been outscored 82-30 in their previous 10 games against New York, and the Orioles scored just 12 runs total in a four-game set at Yankee Stadium last month.
"Really, the last five or six games have been pretty good," Hardy said of an Orioles club fresh off a four-game sweep of Minnesota. "Our pitchers have been going out there and working fast and doing really well, and letting us score a few runs and keep the momentum on our side."
Said Burnett: "If guys are comfortable off you, they're going to take their swings off you. And guys are comfortable off me. I can see it."
The O's offense proved plenty for starter Hunter (3-2), who allowed four runs over seven innings, including three solo homers. A Trade Deadline acquisition from Texas, Hunter picked up his second win in an O's uniform, and has pitched into the seventh inning in four of five starts since joining Baltimore's rotation.
"I love the way Tommy pitches," Wieters said of the 25-year-old right-hander. "He throws strikes, he comes right at you. He's able to use all of his pitches. Guys like that can be successful in this league for a long time."
"He's got a chance to be a horse," Showalter said about Hunter, who took the mound to start the seventh having allowed just one run. "We'll see what develops."
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.