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Yanks make most of limited offense as New York takes 1st in AL East

NEW YORK -- Sergio Mitre made it back after undergoing elbow-ligament replacement surgery. Then he was suspended for 50 games after testing positive for a banned substance.

Finally set to make his first major league start since 2007, he had to wait out a 26-minute rain delay.

"It seemed like it took forever," he said. "I was ready to get out there and pitch."

Mitre eventually made it to the mound, earning his first win in two years as the surging New York Yankees beat the Baltimore Orioles 6-4 on Tuesday night for their fifth consecutive victory.

The Yankees (56-37) moved a season-best 19 games over .500 and took a one-game lead in the AL East over Boston, which lost to Texas. New York hasn't been alone in first this late in the season since it won the division in 2006, according to STATS LLC.

"Yeah it feels great that there's nobody in front of us but it doesn't mean anything at this point in the year," shortstop Derek Jeter said.

Robinson Cano hit a two-run homer and Alex Rodriguez also had a key two-run single for New York, which made the most of just six hits. The Yankees are a major league-best 43-22 since Rodriguez came off the disabled list May 8 following hip surgery.

Mitre, who was called up from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre before the game, allowed four runs, three earned, and eight hits over 5 2/3 innings in his first major league start since Sept. 15, 2007. It was his first win since July 29, 2007, for Florida at San Francisco.

The 28-year-old right-hander is serving as the Yankees' fifth starter with Chien-Ming Wang sidelined by a strained right shoulder.

"I know I can pitch here," Mitre said. "It's just a matter of staying healthy. That's been my biggest problem throughout my career."

Brian Roberts had three hits for Baltimore, which has lost nine straight in the Bronx and fell to 1-13 in road games against the AL East this season. Roberts is batting .433 (13-for-30) in his last seven games.

"Certainly it gets frustrating," said Roberts, whose team has lost four of five since the All-Star break. "We want wins."

After winning each of the last three games 2-1 for the first time in franchise history, the Yankees raced out to a 6-2 lead in the fourth. Rodriguez picked up two RBIs with a two-out single off Rich Hill in the third and Cano went deep after Nick Swisher led off the fourth with a walk.

Hill (3-3) departed after Cano's 14th homer, running his winless stretch to six starts. He allowed five runs and three hits.

"I saw a lot of pitches that were below average," Orioles manager Dave Trembley said. "We thought coming back from the break he'd pitch better. In order to be successful you have to be more aggressive. Every pitch matters. Every pitch is important."

Hill issued four of Baltimore's eight walks and has walked 37 batters in 55 1/3 innings this season.

"We got into throwing more curveballs than I wanted," he said. "It was just a poor outing by me."

Johnny Damon added an RBI single off Brian Bass to finish the scoring in New York's three-run fourth.

Mitre (1-0) missed the 2008 season and had Tommy John surgery on July 15 last year. He agreed to a minor league contract with the Yankees during the offseason, then was suspended under the major league drug program.

Mitre was 1-0 with a 1.93 ERA in two starts for Class A Tampa and 3-1 with a 2.40 ERA in seven starts with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre before he was called up.

"I thought he did a nice job," said Yankees skipper Joe Girardi, who came away with a good impression of Mitre when he managed the Marlins in 2006. "He threw a lot of strikes. He worked quickly. He almost got through six so I was happy with his performance."

Melvin Mora's two-run single cut New York's lead to 6-4 in the sixth but Mitre responded by throwing a called third strike past Nolan Reimold for the second out. Alfredo Aceves then came in and got Matt Wieters to fly out to end the inning.

Aceves also worked a perfect seventh, Phil Coke pitched the eighth and Mariano Rivera got three outs for his 27th save in 28 opportunities.

Game notes
RHP Brett Tomko was designated for assignment to make room for Mitre. Tomko hadn't pitched since July 11. "It's hard to pitch four or five innings in a month and stay completely sharp," he said. "It's not the easiest thing to do, but I'm not making excuses. I didn't get it done in the couple opportunities I had." ... The Orioles activated RHP Cla Meredith and optioned RHP Kam Mickolio to Triple-A Norfolk. Meredith was acquired from the Padres on Sunday for INF Oscar Salazar. ... Orioles RHPs Dennis Sarfate (circulatory problems in right arm) and Chris Ray (right biceps tendinitis) will start rehab assignments on Friday. Sarfate is scheduled to make four appearances for Norfolk, pitching one inning each time. Ray is expected to do the same at Double-A Bowie.