Light-hitting Brendan Ryan provided the unexpected with a two-out, go-ahead RBI double in the sixth.
The bullpen then provided the expected, and the predicable, slamming the door on the Orioles in a 3-2 victory Tuesday night in front of 37,993 at the Stadium.
"We have a really nasty bullpen," said Ryan, whose hit drove in Didi Gregorius, who had singled. "Just one after another with lights-out stuff."
It was a positive start to what Joe Girardi beforehand called an "extremely important" series against the Orioles, who are five games behind the first-place Yankees (51-41) in the AL East.
Nathan Eovaldi did not give up a hit until the fourth inning and pitched five shutout innings before allowing two runs in the sixth as the Orioles (46-46) tied it at 2.
But in the bottom half Ryan, activated from the disabled list last Friday and batting ninth, gave the Bombers a 3-2 lead with a double down the leftfield line off lefthander Wei-Yin Chen, the second baseman's first double in limited action this season.
"Go, Didi, go," Ryan said of his thoughts when he saw the ball trickle into the corner. "It's nice when 8-9 [hitters] can push one across."
The Yankees had 11 hits, including two doubles by Mark Teixeira.
Lefthander Justin Wilson (3-0), who allowed an inherited runner to score in the sixth, gave up a single to Nolan Reimold in the seventh and departed with two outs and a runner on third in favor of Dellin Betances.
The All-Star righthander struck out Manny Machado to end that inning and struck out Jimmy Paredes to start the eighth, giving Betances, who dodged a twirling, broken bat from Chris Davis' two-out single later in the inning, 81 strikeouts in 492/3 innings.
"I love coming in in those situations with guys on," Betances said.
Of the helicoptering bat that grazed his glove as it fluttered by, the 6-8 reliever smiled.
"I didn't see it coming my way," he said. "A lot of guys were telling me I was [lucky]."
Andrew Miller improved to 21-for-21 in save situations with a perfect ninth.
"You feel pretty good about it when you've got a lead in the sixth, seventh, eighth inning," said Chase Headley, whose RBI double in the second made it 2-0. "Obviously when you've got those guys at the back end you feel very confident."
The Yankees, who went 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position and stranded 10, got on the board in the first against Chen, who came in 4-5 but with a 2.78 ERA and allowed three runs and 10 hits in 61/3 innings.
Jacoby Ellsbury, who had one hit in his previous 17 at-bats, led off with an opposite-field double down the leftfield line, improving to 8-for-20 in his career vs. Chen. Brett Gardner moved Ellsbury to third with a bunt and came in on Alex Rodriguez's sacrifice fly to left to make it 1-0. It gave A-Rod 53 RBIs.
The Yankees, after an odd 15-minute rain delay in which it hardly rained, made it 2-0 in the second. The Orioles didn't get to Eovaldi, who allowed two runs and four hits and felt particularly good about his splitter, until the sixth when they tied it.
"We got the win, that's all that matters," said Eovaldi, who lowered his ERA to 4.43 from 4.50. "The entire season, the bullpen's been outstanding."