Yankees sweep Orioles, tighten grip on playoff spot thanks to pinch-hitting Gleyber Torres

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Gleyber Torres (25) of the New York Yankees connects on his eighth inning pinch-hit, two-run double against the Baltimore Orioles on Sunday, September 13, 2020 at Yankee Stadium in New York City. - Jim McIsaac/Getty Images North America/TNS

NEW YORK — Now the Yankees can take a deep breath and exhale. With a pinch-hit, two-run double in the eighth from Gleyber Torres, the Yankees rallied late to beat the Orioles 3-1 at the Stadium Sunday, completing the series sweep.

The Yankees (26-21) have won five straight after an epic mid-season slide, which very briefly had them fighting to stay in the playoff picture. These five wins puts them back into the hunt for the second, seeded playoff berth from the American League East.

And they will begin a battle with the Blue Jays for that second-place spot Tuesday, after their last scheduled off day of the season. The Yankees and Jays are tied for second in the East; Toronto plays the Mets on Sunday.

When they return to start that three games in the Bronx, they will be a more complete team.

While the Yankees finished off the Orioles (20-26) in the teams’ last meeting of the season at Yankee Stadium, Giancarlo Stanton and Gio Urshela were in Scranton at the Yankees’ alternate training site. Aaron Judge worked out on the field at the Stadium before the game and could be heading to Scranton as soon as Monday to begin his final tune up before returning from the injured list.

“G is probably going to get two or three at bats today in a game, and also go through his his pregame and then we’ll see how that goes and probably go through and do that again on Monday, with more at-bats on Monday hopefully,” Boone said of Stanton, who has been out since Aug. 9 with a strained left hamstring.

Judge, who has played one game since Aug. 11 because of a strained right calf that put him on the IL twice, was on the field at Yankee Stadium before Sunday’s series and season finale with the Orioles. Judge ran the bases at about 80% and worked on defensive drills in right field.

“Aaron, he’s got a pretty strenuous day to day as far as baserunning, cage BP, he’s doing defensive stuff … If that all goes well he could go down to Scranton, potentially tomorrow, and get some at-bats,” Boone said. “We’ve gotta get through today and the strenuous nature of today first.”

Urshela, who had been dealing with a bone spur in his right elbow that shut him down last weekend, is expected to be back in the lineup on Tuesday. He will have the day off on Monday.

Boone has speculated that all of his injured players — except left-hander James Paxton — could be back in the lineup by this weekend, when the Yankees head to Boston for their final series against the Red Sox this year.

Paxton, who was shut down from his rehab from a strained flexor in his left forearm, was a big loss to the rotation. With the addition of 21-year-old prospect Deivi Garcia, however, the Bombers’ rotation finally seems to be settling in this turn through.

J.A. Happ gave the Yankees their ninth straight start allowing two runs or less on Sunday.

It was Happ’s seven-inning start against the Blue Jays on Tuesday that was the beginning of the Yankees’ turnaround. But he had to work hard to get through five Sunday.

The veteran lefty allowed just one run on five hits. He did not walk a batter and struck out five.

Happ gave up a second-inning solo home run to an old nemesis. Orioles third baseman Renato Nunez, who has 11 homers this season, is 12-for-23 with five home runs in his career against Happ.

Tyler Wade got it back for Happ with his second homer of the season in the bottom of the third inning.

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