NEW YORK -- The Orioles have waited a long time for this; for a winning record, relevant September baseball, and a playoff push that could result in the organization's first postseason game in 15 years.
And while that remains the end goal, Baltimore certainly doesn't mind rewriting a little history along the way. For the first time since 1976, the Orioles claimed their third series win in New York in a single season, using a pair of homers from Mark Reynolds to propel them to an 8-3 win Sunday afternoon that cut the Yankees' American League East lead back to two games.
The message, in taking six of nine games in the Bronx, is simple. These O's will no longer be bullied.
"Hopefully, we're finding that we're becoming a little better," manager Buck Showalter said of his club's six wins in the Bronx this season, which matched the Orioles' combined total from the previous three years. "[The Yankees have] been the measuring stick for a long time."
If Showalter's club keeps this up, that won't be the case for much longer. Winners of 19 of their last 27, the Orioles have outscored the Yankees 49-32 in New York this season, with Sunday's win improving them to 58-0 when leading after seven innings, while evening the season series with the Yankees at 7-7. The Orioles, who currently hold one of two Wild Card spots, are far from satisfied.
"We want to win the division," said right fielder Nick Markakis, who had three hits and two RBIs to raise his average to .343 since moving to the leadoff spot. "That's the ultimate goal. ... Everybody in the clubhouse is on the same page, same mentality. We're in the zone right now. That's where we want to stay, and we're going to take it day by day."
Reynolds singlehandedly ensured Sunday's win with a four-RBI afternoon that gave the club its 25th series win of the year. Down two, the 29-year-old Reynolds gave the O's their first lead with a towering three-run, sixth-inning homer -- his second of the game -- off Yankees starter Phil Hughes.
"I think it definitely took the life out of the stadium a little bit," Reynolds said of the 1-0 curveball Hughes hung that ended up in the left-field seats.
Reynolds also accounted for the Orioles' only run through five innings, belting a solo homer off Hughes to start the fifth, and the bats began to come alive with a pair of singles from Adam Jones and Matt Wieters, the latter scoring Nate McLouth for the first run of the sixth.
"He picked us up and put us on his back," Markakis said of Reynolds, who had a three-hit afternoon and continues to show signs of reemerging. "It was big for us. It was big for him."
Eight of Reynolds' 16 homers have come within the last month, with the first baseman hitting .320 (24-for-75) with 16 walks, 13 extra-base hits, 14 runs and 16 RBIs since Aug. 6. Sunday's multihomer game was Reynolds' second in three days, making him the first opposing player to have more than one multihomer game in a single series in New York since Boston's David Ortiz did it in 2003.
"We are playing with a lot of confidence, and we are just having fun," Reynolds said of an Orioles club predicted by many to finish in the AL East cellar. "You look at a lot of young guys in here, they don't even know they are in a playoff race, probably."
Yet here they are, winning games in every way imaginable.
Down a starter early, with Chris Tillman exiting after three innings due to right elbow stiffness, Randy Wolf stepped in and helped keep the bullpen from being overextended in an impressive 3 1/3-innings Baltimore debut.
"I've said it a few times already, I think we're the best team that nobody talks about," said Wolf, who became the 50th different player used by the Orioles this season. "There's a lot of teams that are in the playoff hunt that people are talking about, but this team just finds a way to win, and that's exciting.
"I've been part of teams that just find ways to win. The one thing I've noticed in the short time I've been here is this team has a lot of confidence in itself, and that's really fun to be around. A team that's confident and gets that taste of what it needs to win"
Wolf kept the game winnable, allowing only one run, on Nick Swisher's fifth-inning RBI single. He was anchored by some great defense, including an inning-ending double play in the sixth. In that frame, shortstop J.J. Hardy -- who committed a critical error in Saturday's loss -- made a diving stop and flip to second baseman Robert Andino, who fired an off-the-line throw that an outstretched Reynolds corralled and then kept his foot on the base long enough to nab Russell Martin.
Wolf held firm after that, handing the ball to ex-Yankee Luis Ayala one out into the seventh.
"I told you in Spring Training; we have a great bunch of players. There's no names, but there's men," said Ayala, who got an inning-ending double play to strand a pair of runners. "We've done the little things, scored enough runs to keep us in games. ... I think it's a great feeling. It's a great time to do some great things."
Lefty Brian Matusz and righty Darren O'Day collected the final five outs to put the finishing touches on the Orioles' 74th win of the season. With the Tampa Bay Rays' win over the Blue Jays, the top three teams in the AL East are separated by a mere 3 1/2 games, and the Orioles will now head to Toronto for a three-game series that starts Monday, while the Yankees will head south to play the Rays.
"September, it's a good time, especially when you are in it and have a chance to be in the postseason," said Reynolds, who got a taste of October with Arizona in 2007. "That's everyone's goal at the beginning of the year, and we are right there. We are right where we want to be."
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.