BALTIMORE--Coming off Monday's heated series opener, the aftermath of which lingered into the following afternoon, there was no retaliation, on-field fights between managers or public accusations of sign stealing between the Orioles and Yankees on Tuesday night.
Instead, Baltimore watched its division foe swipe something far more important at this stage of the season. A depleted Orioles bullpen -- without the services of a couple late-inning arms -- surrendered four eighth-inning runs, negating an offensive effort highlighted by Chris Davis' 49th homer in a 7-5, series-evening loss that moved the Yankees within a half-game of Baltimore in the American League Wild Card race.
The Orioles remain tied with the Indians and 1 1/2 games behind the Rays for the second Wild Card slot after both teams also lost Tuesday.
"We had a couple guys unavailable tonight, and [Kevin Gausman] is pitching on normal rest like a starter," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said of sending the rookie righty out for a second inning to start the decisive eighth. "He's pitching well. He had some good pitches. Just some balls that they were able to get their arms extended on."
That Gausman was extended at all, particularly with expanded rosters in a pivotal division matchup, was a byproduct of Showalter wanting to stay away from using right-handers Tommy Hunter and Darren O'Day. Gausman, tasked to protect a one-run lead, fired a 1-2-3 seventh with a pair of strikeouts, but couldn't replicate that success. He was tagged for three runs in the following frame, including Alfonso Soriano's second homer, and didn't record an out before handing the ball off to righty Francisco Rodriguez.
"The flood gates kind of opened right there," said Gausman, who took the blame for Tuesday's loss and watched Rodriguez allow a fourth run after he exited. "You can definitely feel it kind of take some wind out of us, but hopefully tomorrow we can bounce back."
The Orioles, who are down to the final three weeks of the season, have to hope that's the case having missed a chance to pull to within a half-game of the Rays. Tuesday's late-inning meltdown also negated a solid offensive performance off Yankees starter Ivan Nova, who they tagged for four runs over six innings.
"At the end of the day, it's about winning games from now on," third baseman Manny Machado said of his club's home stretch. "It's not about anybody's stats. We're just going to keep playing baseball, and not worry about anybody else and what they're doing."
Tasked to protect a one-run lead, Gausman allowed Alex Rodriguez -- who exited the game with a hamstring injury -- his second double, and Robinson Cano drove Rodriguez in to tie the game at 4. Soriano, who also took starter Miguel Gonzalez deep, followed with a two-run shot that gave New York the lead and brought Showalter out to the mound to call on Rodriguez.
Why not the call for the veteran righty sooner?
"I think Frankie's inability to hold runners is a challenge for him in that situation," Showalter said. "It's a challenge for him with that, so that's one of the factors. But Gaus was carrying good stuff, and sometimes you've just got to tip your hat to them. He pitched real well against them last time."
As did Nova, who had thrown both of his career complete games against Baltimore earlier this season. All four of the Orioles' runs on Tuesday came in the fifth, an inning highlighted by Davis' two-run blast on an 81-mph curveball to put him one homer shy of Brady Anderson's single-season club record.
Things got started with a pair of singles from J.J. Hardy and Brian Roberts, with Henry Urrutia's infield hit enough to plate Hardy as shortstop Eduardo Nunez's throw skipped by first baseman Mark Reynolds. Nick Markakis, fresh off a three-hit night, followed with a sacrifice fly to left field that Alex Rodriguez cut off before it reached the plate, much to the dismay of catcher Chris Stewart -- who held out his arms in disbelief -- and Soriano, who made the throw.
"I said, 'OK, it's one run," Soriano said. "Let me hit a home run. Let me get it back.'"
The red-hot Soriano did it twice, negating Davis' power stroke, which sailed over the center-field wall and tied Frank Robinson for the second-highest single-season total in club history.
Davis' shot gave the Orioles a short-lived three-run lead, with Gonzalez coughing up a pair of solo blasts to Soriano and Reynolds in the sixth. The right-handed Gonzalez, who was hit for seven earned runs over four innings the last time he faced New York, held the Yankees to one run over the first five.
"Throwing those fastballs right there, they were middle-up," Gonzalez said of the damage done in his final frame. "That was tough, especially against this offense."
The pair of homers brought the Yankees within a run, and chased Gonzalez after 94 pitches in favor of Gausman, who dropped to 2-5 on the year and was faced with his first hold situation since joining the bullpen.
"We just couldn't stem the tide," Showalter said. "They throw a lot of weapons at you, and Soriano has been a great addition for them. [Alex] Rodriguez did some things that hurt us. We've got a couple of pieces missing in our bullpen tonight, which was a challenge for us, but Gaus came close."
The O's pulled the score back to within two runs in the eighth on Matt Wieters' sacrifice fly off reliever Shawn Kelley, which brought on famed closer Mariano Rivera for the four-out save, his 42nd of the season.
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.