BALTIMORE -- Curtis Granderson has spent most of this season trying to make people believe that he's not really a home run hitter, even as his teammates smirk and scoff in the other direction.
But now that Granderson has grabbed hold of the Major League home run lead, going deep twice to drive in four runs in the Yankees' 8-3 pounding of the Orioles in the second game of a doubleheader on Sunday, how much longer can he keep up the facade?
"It's one of those freak things," Granderson said. "I was thinking, 'The home run guys can do it. They hit mammoth shots. Mine, as long as they just get over the fence, that's great. It doesn't matter how far they happen to go.'"
Granderson slammed his 37th and 38th homers on Sunday, overtaking the Blue Jays' Jose Bautista for the league lead, sparking chants of "MVP!" from a largely pro-Yankees contingent of the 37,528 on hand at Camden Yards.
Starting with a third-inning, three-run blast off Brian Matusz, it was part of a five-homer barrage that also included Robinson Cano, Nick Swisher and Andruw Jones cracking consecutive bombs in the sixth inning.
The output helped the Yankees secure a split of a day-night doubleheader after Bartolo Colon was outdueled by Zach Britton in a 2-0 decision during the matinee contest.
"I thought Curtis had a huge hit for us," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "We didn't score in the first game and we were down 2-0 at that point. Then we just started swinging the bats better."
Ivan Nova started off shakily, permitting runs in each of his first three innings, but he made an adjustment and settled in to log his 14th victory, leading all big league rookies.
Nova ran his string of unbeaten starts to 11, going 10-0 with a 3.52 ERA over that span. He's also won seven straight overall.
"It's good, but seriously, I don't pay too much attention," Nova said. "I think I'm a big part of the team and we need to win games. That's all that matters."
Nova has had better outings this season as he builds a candidacy for the American League Rookie of the Year Award. The Orioles rapped him loudly before he settled in, checking video and spotting an improper arm angle between innings.
"He didn't really give us much to hit all night," Mark Reynolds said. "He left a couple of pitches over the middle, and I thought we took advantage of those."
Adam Jones lifted sacrifice flies in the first and third innings, and Ryan Adams stroked a RBI double in the second inning off Nova, who walked two and struck out seven in seven-plus innings.
"Somebody told me here that he likes when I pitch, because I win and we score a lot of runs," Nova said. "I just try to keep my team in the game."
Asked who'd paid him that particular compliment, Nova offered only a grin.
"It was one of the guys that told me," Nova said. "I'm not going to say the name, but it was one of the guys."
Nova tired in the eighth, allowing a single and a walk before departing, but Dave Robertson lived up to his "Houdini" nickname once again and pitched out of a bases-loaded, none-out jam, striking out the side.
"I just can't stand to lose," Robertson said. "So when the bases are loaded, I'm digging in deep and giving everything I can to try and make the best pitches I can. I have the most focus on every pitch. You do that and all you can do is just hope it works out well."
The Bombers' outbursts came after New York was unable to move a runner as far as second base in the day game, burning 7 2/3 innings of two-run ball from Colon, who took a tough-luck defeat.
Granderson's solo shot in the seventh off Chris Jakubauskas gave him sole possession of the home run lead, further extending his career high in round-trippers, even as the outfielder continues to insist that he is not a power hitter.
"I'm still not in that Alex [Rodriguez] category or Big Papi [David Ortiz] or Adrian Gonzalez category, to just do it at will," Granderson said. "At least I think they can."
Cano hit a two-run homer off Matusz in the sixth, his 23rd, and Swisher immediately followed with a solo shot, his 20th, to knock the lefty out of the game. Jones greeted Jakubauskas with a solo blast, his 11th.
The Yankees hit three consecutive home runs for the first time since May 20, 2009 -- also against the Orioles. That day, Cano, Swisher and Melky Cabrera went deep in order.
Yet the loudest cheers and chants seemed reserved for Granderson, who propped his right hand on his locker and offered a slight grin, still sticking to his story of being just another hitter with fluky power numbers.
"I hear them, but I don't really pay much attention to them," Granderson said. "It's just one of the things that's happened a little quicker, crazy as it is. And why it is? I don't know."