If Right Is Right, Then Left Is Wrong
Bullpen Matchup Problems Hurt O's: Yankees 5, Orioles 2
By Dave Sheinin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 4, 2004; Page D01
NEW YORK, June 3 -- When the New York Yankees came to the plate in the bottom of the seventh inning of a tie game Thursday afternoon, having already whipped the Baltimore Orioles twice this week and knowing full well they could win this one any way they wanted, four of their next five hitters were right-handed. It was the perfect spot for the Orioles to counter with a trustworthy right-handed reliever -- if only they had one.
Let's see . . . Mike DeJean? He has a 7.84 ERA and has failed to gain back his manager's trust. Rodrigo Lopez? He's in the starting rotation now.
Darwin Cubillan? Eddy Rodriguez? Not if the Orioles were trying seriously to win.
So Manager Lee Mazzilli did the only thing he felt he could do: He brought in a lefty. And when that lefty faltered, he brought in another.
The result was predictable, if not preordained. The Yankees pummeled John Parrish and B.J. Ryan for three decisive runs, giving them a 5-2 victory and an emphatic three-game sweep in front of 44,020 at Yankee Stadium.
The Orioles had leads in all three games, but still fell to 0-6 this season against Mazzilli's former team, and 17-45 against the Yankees since 2001.
"There's been so many games where we had a lead and lost it," said Orioles veteran catcher Javy Lopez, who served as designated hitter on Thursday. "I know our pitching is doing the best it can. Unfortunately, most of the games we've lost have been [because of] walking people."
The second-guessers will be questioning Mazzilli's handling of the seventh inning for days to come. He could have chosen to stick with rookie starter Daniel Cabrera, a 6-foot-7 right-hander who pitched beyond his 23 years in holding the Yankees to two runs on six hits through six innings.
Cabrera's pitch count at the time was a modest 89, although he had just endured a shaky sixth.
"I felt good [enough] to go back out there," Cabrera said through an interpreter. "But that's [the coaching staff's] decision."
"We had already made that decision," Mazzilli said. " . . . We knew he was done after that sixth inning."
Mazzilli also could have gone with DeJean, who despite his gaudy ERA had strung together three straight decent outings, including a scoreless inning the night before. But none of those three outings had been in high-pressure, late-inning situations.
Asked about DeJean following Thursday's loss, Mazzilli said vaguely, "You talk it over with your coaches, what you think [is best] in that spot."
Clearly, Mazzilli felt his best option was to go to his best relievers, regardless of which hand they threw with. That meant Parrish got the ball to start the inning. And after Parrish put runners on first and second with one out by giving up a single to Miguel Cairo and hitting Derek Jeter on the foot with a breaking ball, it meant Ryan had to come in to try to clean up the mess.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company
Orioles catcher Robert Machado is left waiting for the ball in the seventh inning while the Yankees' Derek Jeter scores on Gary Sheffield's double.
(Bill Kostroun -- AP)
_____Devil Rays at Orioles_____
• Where: Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
• When: Tonight at 7:35 p.m., Saturday at 4:35 p.m., Sunday at 1:35 p.m.
• TV: Tonight (WDCA-20, WJZ-13); Saturday-Sunday (WDCA-20, WNUV-54).
• Radio: WTEM-980 (Tonight and Sunday), WTNT-570 (Saturday), WBAL-1090, WAGE-1200, WNAV-1430.
• Probable starters: Tonight, Devil Rays RHP Victor Zambrano (5-4, 5.11 ERA) vs. Orioles LHP Erik Bedard (1-2, 4.62); Saturday, Devil Rays RHP Rob Bell (1-2, 4.96) vs. Orioles RHP Rodrigo Lopez (4-2, 2.76); Sunday, Devil Rays RHP Paul Abbott (2-5, 6.70) vs. Orioles RHP Sidney Ponson (3-6, 6.48).