- Associated Press - Monday, July 18, 2016

NEW YORK (AP) - Alex Rodriguez finally has his best swing, the Yankees’ No Runs DMC bullpen trio is rolling and they’re all trying to keep the band together.

Rodriguez hit his 696th career homer , Ivan Nova grinded through six innings and the Yankees’ bullpen triad closed up shop for the second straight game to help New York beat the Baltimore Orioles 2-1 on Monday night.

New York (46-46) pulled within 7 1/2 games of first-place Baltimore in the AL East. It’s 2-2 on a 10-game homestand that could determine whether the Yankees are buyers or sellers at the Aug. 1 deadline.

“We definitely want to keep all the guys around and keep this together,” Rodriguez said.

Nova (7-5) needed 60 pitches to get through three but allowed just a solo homer to Jonathan Schoop. He handed a 2-1 lead over to New York’s bullpen troika of Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman.

No Runs DMC, possibly in its final days with Miller and Chapman rumored to be on the trade block, covered the final three innings to extend its scoreless streak to 22 innings. The Yankees are 18-1 when all three relievers pitch in the same game.

Chapman got his 19th save. He threw five pitches of 104 mph or higher, reaching 105.1 on his sixth pitch to J.J. Hardy - the fastest pitch in the majors since MLB’s Statcast system began measuring in 2015.

“He’s just such an outlier,” Miller said.

Chapman’s last pitch was 104.9. He got Ryan Flaherty out on a grounder with a runner on first - the bouncing ball hit part of Flaherty’s shattered bat in the middle of the diamond before being easily handled.

Nova had a 6.93 ERA in his past five starts but was coming off 10 days’ rest.

“I worry when he has a lot of extra rest because he’s a sinkerballer,” manager Joe Girardi said. “It took him about three innings really to find his command, and he was really good after that.”

After New York failed to score in the first inning for the 22nd consecutive game, Rodriguez turned on a 2-0 fastball from Kevin Gausman for his ninth home run leading off the second.

The 40-year-old Rodriguez was making his fourth straight start coming out of the All-Star break, going 1 for 10 in the first three games. Since his last homer on June 18, he’d gone 10 for 50 with one double in 15 games.

Yankees outfielder Carlos Beltran said it looked like A-Rod got back his “A-swing” on the homer.

“It’s been a struggle,” Rodriguez said. “I’ve been really bad this year. I’ve been working my butt off and I just haven’t been able to figure it out.”

New York got its other run via Brian McCann’s sacrifice fly in the third.

Gausman (1-7) pitched 6 2/3 innings, allowing two runs and six hits while striking out six.

“I wish I could take back one pitch. That’s really it,” Gausman said. “Even McCann’s, he kind of got it just deep enough to get that run in. But I felt like I kind of locked in and got better as the game went on, so not really much you can do.”

Gausman fell to 0-1 in three starts against New York this season despite a 1.31 ERA over 20 2/3 innings. Baltimore entered averaging five runs per game but just 3.40 in Gausman’s starts. With star slugger Chris Davis out with an illness, the Orioles had just five hits in another muted performance behind Gausman.

“It’s pretty rare for us to only get one,” Gausman said. “I don’t take it personal.”

Carlos Beltran added three hits for the Yankees to raise his average to .303.

LOOK OUT

Rodriguez dived away from Gausman’s 98 mph fastball headed for his head in the sixth - the pitch drew boos from the Yankee Stadium crowd. Gausman struck out Rodriguez swinging at a splitter in the dirt on the next pitch.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Orioles: C Matt Wieters went for X-rays after the game on his right foot. He was hit by a pitch in the first inning but stayed in the game. “I’m waiting with a little anxiety on what’s going to show,” manager Buck Showalter said. … Davis spent Sunday night at a hospital and got IV fluid. Showalter said the first baseman stayed at the hotel Monday night. … OF Hyun Soo Kim missed his fourth straight game with a strained right hamstring. The Orioles hope to decide Tuesday whether to place Kim on the disabled list. … Reliever Darren O’Day (right hamstring) will throw a simulated game on Tuesday.

Yankees: 1B Mark Teixeira sat out a second straight game with a sore left foot. A CT scan came back negative on Sunday. Rob Refsnyder started at first. … The Yankees reinstated OF prospect Mason Williams from the 60-day disabled list and optioned him to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

UP NEXT

Orioles: RHP Vance Worley (2-0, 2.87) makes his first start since moving to the bullpen following two starts in April. He has a 2.23 ERA in 18 games as a reliever, and Baltimore is hoping that success translates and bolsters one of the worst rotations in the AL.

Yankees: RHP Nathan Eovaldi (7-6, 5.11) returns to the rotation after making three appearances in the bullpen. He pitched 7 2/3 scoreless innings as a reliever.

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