Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The old AL East narrative used to be simple. The Orioles would throw out a contender once every few years, but otherwise be the division’s punching bag. The Yankees have taken full advantage of this and are 63-30 against Baltimore under manager Aaron Boone.

This three-game series was a warning that a new contender might be on the way. Worse yet, the Yankees clearly didn’t respect just how hungry Baltimore plays under manager Brandon Hyde.

The Yankees are still the better team on their best day, and by a wide margin. But make no mistake, the Orioles are no longer the AL East’s doormat.

Hitting: This was interesting to watch because on paper, the Yankees are easily the better team. Yet, we saw last year that the Orioles can keep up with deeper lineups. Ryan Mountcastle is breaking out of his slump and Austin Hays is batting over .300 on the year. There’s a reason Baltimore ranks seventh in runs scored.

That said, Baltimore was also aided by a lot going wrong for the Yankees. DJ LeMahieu is slumping and Aaron Judge’s game-tying homer on Tuesday was his only hit in the series. Now add in a lower half of the lineup that’s really missing Giancarlo Stanton, Josh Donaldson, and the protection they bring.

It just goes to show that in the long run, Baltimore’s team effort driving in runs might be the better approach than relying on a top-loaded lineup.

Pitching: We just mentioned a lot going wrong for the Yankees, and a big part of that was Gerrit Cole still struggling. He never had any fastball command in his start Tuesday and has a 4.67 ERA in May. Nestor Cortes also struggled, though that might have been from being left in a batter or two too long on Wednesday.

What’s strange is the Orioles’ pitching this series wasn’t much better. Kyle Bradish never had command of his pitches Tuesday and couldn’t hold a lead. Tyler Wells gave up three homers Wednesday before the Yankees coughed up the lead. Kyle Gibson owned a 6.75 ERA against the Yankees in his career before overachieving with seven shutout innings.

Baltimore might have won the series, but it certainly wasn’t because of its pitching.

Who are these new Baltimore Orioles? In our MLB preview, we noted the Orioles were fully capable of fighting for a playoff spot this year. Winning a series against the Yankees in the Bronx proves that. They caught an ace pitcher on a bad day and took full advantage, and then capitalized on mistakes late in a game the next night.

The hard truth is at this point, Baltimore can’t be a contender until they improve their starting rotation. The Yankees’ arms are still better than theirs in the long run.

However, young hitters like Adley Rutschman and Gunnar Henderson are only going to get better. Ryan Mountcastle is streaky, but currently on pace for 36 home runs. The Yankees can’t just write off the Orioles anymore and had better be ready when they meet again in July.

Josh Benjamin has been a staff writer at ESNY since 2018. He has had opinions about everything, especially the Yankees and Knicks. He co-hosts the “Bleacher Creatures” podcast and is always looking for new pieces of sports history to uncover, usually with a Yankee Tavern chicken parm sub in hand.