NEW YORK — Caleb Joseph saved his best contact for home plate, not the baseball.
Rookie Greg Bird's tiebreaking three-run homer off Brian Matusz had just put the Yankees ahead in the seventh inning. Dellin Betances got ahead of Chris Davis 0-2 starting the eighth, then threw eight straight balls to give the reeling Orioles some hope in what has become a second half to forget.
Jonathan Schoop and Nolan Reimold struck out on three pitches each, and Ryan Flaherty walked on four straight balls, loading the bases.
Joseph fell behind 0-2, worked the count full and swung just under a 3-2 belt-high slider for the final out. He slammed his bat against the plate, splitting the wood, turned toward Baltimore's dugout and then snapped the lumber apart against his right knee.
It was the image of the Orioles' season.
"I like that. It shows you're human," Adam Jones said after the Orioles wasted a three-run lead in Monday's 8-6 Labor Day loss, Baltimore's 15th defeat in 18 games.
Seeking their fourth straight postseason appearance, the Orioles were just five games off the AL East lead after play on Aug. 19 and a half-game behind for the second AL wild card.
A four-game sweep by Minnesota started the skid. Five of the losses during the tailspin have been by one run, and this was the second with a two-run margin.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter said Joseph's reaction was understandable.
"It's all emotion. He just wears it out there where everybody can see it," Showalter said.
Joseph did not speak with reporters after the game, the ninth straight losing series opener for Baltimore in the Bronx.
Schoop hit a three-run homer on Michael Pineda's hanging 0-2 slider in a four-run second that put the Orioles in front 4-1. New York went ahead 5-4 in the fifth, when Alex Rodriguez homered off Wei-Yin Chen leading off and John Ryan Murphy hit a two-run drive.
Manny Machado tied the score in the seventh with a homer against Justin Wilson (5-0), just the second this season off the left-hander. It didn't take long for the Orioles to fall behind again.
Jorge Rondon (0-1) walked Carlos Beltran leading off the seventh, Chris Young singled and Baltimore brought in the left-handed Matusz to face the left-handed-hitting Bird, a 22-year-old who made his big league debut last month. Matusz got ahead in the count 0-2, then hung an 83 mph slider.
"I'd like to have that one back," said Matusz, who has allowed five of his last 10 homers to lefty batters at Yankee Stadium.
Steve Pearce, who replaced Jones in the bottom of the eighth, walked with two outs in the ninth against Andrew Miller, took second on defensive indifference and scored on a single by Davis, his 101st RBI. Jimmy Paredes struck out on three pitches, giving Miller his 32nd save in 33 chances.
Jones came out because of a sore right shoulder. Showalter said the center fielder aggravated the shoulder in the sixth when he threw to first trying to double up Jacoby Ellsbury at first on Chase Headley's flyout.
"Body's going through a little bit of soreness. It's fine," Jones said. "I'll be back out there tomorrow."
Chen gave up five runs — four earned — and nine hits in five innings. Despite getting ahead in counts, he had trouble finishing batters.
"Maybe because I was overthinking about things," he said through a translator. "I couldn't make the key pitch."
Orioles: C Matt Wieters (sore left wrist) missed his third straight game. ... SS J.J. Hardy (groin) is likely to be activated from the disabled list Tuesday.
Baltimore optioned right-hander Oliver Drake and outfielder Junior Lake to Triple-A Norfolk after the game.
Kevin Gausman (2-6), who is 0-4 in his last six starts, starts for the Orioles on Tuesday night. Masahiro Tanaka (11-6) is slated for the Yankees.
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