Yankees’ power returns before stars do to slug past Orioles

Without Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Hicks and Didi Gregorius, the Yankees’ power was expected to be severely reduced.

It was, but despite the injured list seemingly growing daily, the Yankees continued to win despite the power dip.

That power returned in the first game of a Yankee Stadium doubleheader on Wednesday, when the Yankees slugged four homers on the way to a 5-3 victory over the Orioles in front of a quaint gathering smaller than a spring training game.

Gleyber Torres homered twice, and Gary Sanchez and Cameron Maybin added one each to make a winner out of J.A. Happ (3-3), who allowed three runs and five hits in 5 ¹/₃ innings.

Adam Ottavino, Tommy Kahnle, Zack Britton and Aroldis Chapman supplied 3 ²/₃ innings of scoreless relief to seal the 25-16 Yankees’ 17th win in 23 games to move them to within a half-game of the first-place Rays in the AL East going into the nightcap. Chapman recorded the final three outs for his 10th save in 11 chances.

When Ottavino started throwing in the top of the fifth inning in the bullpen, it was an indication that Aaron Boone was bringing the right-handed reliever into the game. With the left-handed hitting Dwight Smith, Jr. starting the sixth inning, the guess was Boone would let Happ start the inning and lift him after Smith’s at-bat.

That’s what Boone did, calling for Ottavino after Smith struck out looking.

Ottavino retired the last two batters in the sixth, but gave up a soft single to Joey Rickard to open the seventh. After a visit from pitching coach Larry Rothschild and Rickard swiping second, Ottavino caught Hanser Alberto looking at a 1-2 pitch. With the left-handed hitting Chris Davis next in the order, Boone replaced the right-handed Ottavino with another right-hander, Tommy Kahnle.

Part of the reason was lefty swingers were hitting .040 (1-for-25) against Kahnle compared to .200 (5-for-25) versus Ottavino. The move paid off when Davis fanned and Kahnle killed the scoring threat by getting Austin Wynns to swing through a 97-mph fastball for the final out.

Torres’ second homer in three innings opened the home fourth and put the Yankees on top, 4-3. With one out, Gio Urshela lifted a fly ball toward the right-field corner that glanced off Trey Mancini’s glove and resulted in a three-base error. After Maybin struck out looking, Mike Tauchman bounced a single up the middle that scored Urshela and hiked the Yankees’ advantage to 5-3.