NEW YORK -- The AL East race, once so close you could cover four of the five teams with a blanket, is now starting to look like a runaway. Wednesday night's 4-2 win over the Baltimore Orioles gave the New York Yankees a six-game lead over both Baltimore and the Tampa Bay Rays, and could leave them 5½ games ahead of the Toronto Blue Jays, who are playing on the West Coast. It also left the Rays a whopping eight games back in the loss column, a tough gap to make up with less than 70 games to play.
The Yankees did it Wednesday with power, defense and the bullpen -- and just enough starting pitching. They can complete a sweep of the Orioles, last year's division winners, in Thursday's finale.
No complaints: In his fifth start since returning from Tommy John surgery, Ivan Nova tightrope walked through six innings but left with a 4-2 lead, thanks to big hits and a couple of clutch plays in the field. Nova allowed just three hits, one of them a two-run homer, walked three and struck out three. He was more lucky than sharp, but the Yankees will take it.
Moon shot: Alex Rodriguez absolutely pulverized a Kevin Gausman pitch deep into the left-center-field bleachers in the fifth to give the Yankees a 4-2 lead. It was A-Rod's 20th of the season, the most he has hit since 2010, when he had 30. According to data compiled by ESPN Stats & Information, the shot measured 453 feet, the longest home run hit at Yankee Stadium this season. By 20 feet. It was also the 3,024th hit of his career, moving him ahead of Lou Brock and into 24th place on MLB's all-time hits list.
Glove story: Nova got into a heap of trouble by walking the first two batters of the fifth and seeing them move to second and third after a sacrifice bunt, but Chase Headley and Mark Teixeira dug him out with their gloves. Headley snagged Manny Machado's hot shot down the line, and Tex dug out the one-hop throw for the second out. Nova got Travis Snider to ground out, routinely, to end the threat and preserve the Yankees' 3-2 lead.
Stranded: The Yankees got a leadoff double from Carlos Beltran in the fourth, moved him to third on a groundout and had three chances to get him home. However, they failed when Didi Gregorius grounded to short, Stephen Drew walked and Jacoby Ellsbury bounced into an inning-ending forceout.
Gaussed: The Yankees jumped all over Orioles starter Gausman in the first inning, starting with Ellsbury's leadoff double down the right-field line. Brett Gardner singled him home, then Teixeira lined his 24th home run of the season just inside the right-field foul pole to make it 3-0. Gausman recovered to fan Headley and Gregorius to end the inning.
Lucky break: The Orioles had a runner on second with one out in the first when Nova broke Adam Jones' bat. That resulted in a soft liner to second that Drew gloved and turned into an unassisted double play as Machado (leadoff walk, stolen base) leaned too far toward third and couldn't get back, ending the inning.