If Right Is Right, Then Left Is Wrong
But after striking out Alex Rodriguez for the second out, Ryan threw a 1-1 pitch to Gary Sheffield that caught too much of the plate, and Sheffield hit a drive to right for a two-run double. "Sometimes," Ryan said, "they hit it where they're not." Next, Matsui singled off the glove of Rafael Palmeiro, bringing home a third run.
Amazingly, Matsui's was the first hit allowed by Ryan to a left-handed hitter all season in 31 official at-bats. That still leaves lefties hitting only .032 against him.
The three-run seventh made a winner out of Yankees right-hander Javier Vazquez (6-4), who allowed only a solo homer to Lopez and another run in the fourth when he plunked Lopez with the bases loaded and nobody out. It became a pivotal point in the game, as Vazquez, who reacted to the wayward fastball with spasms of disgust, retired the next three Orioles batters -- B.J. Surhoff (foul out to catcher), Luis Matos (strikeout) and Larry Bigbie (force out) -- to end the inning and did not allow another hit.
For the second straight game, an Orioles runner was picked off second base with the heart of the order coming to the plate. On Wednesday night, it was Jerry Hairston. On Thursday, it was Melvin Mora, who was nailed after he inexplicably took off for third while Vazquez had his back to him. Vazquez simply stepped off the mound and threw to third baseman Alex Rodriguez, who applied the tag. At the plate, Palmeiro, the cleanup hitter, gazed on incredulously.
After seven strong innings, Vazquez turned it over to the Yankees' veteran-laden, dependable bullpen. Closer Mariano Rivera capped it with a perfect ninth inning, gaining his 21st save and third in this series.
The Orioles came away from this series cognizant of the shortcomings on the right side of their bullpen.
"Somehow we've got to figure out a way -- which way I want to go and what I want to do," Mazzilli said.
But the Orioles also came away perturbed by what they saw as a generally inequitable strike zone -- mostly large for the Yankees' pitchers and much smaller for their own -- symbolized by the third strike called against pinch hitter Jose Leon to end Wednesday night's loss.
"It's hard to compete not only against [the Yankees], but against the umpires," said Lopez, who said the Orioles had a difficult time getting their quality pitches called as strikes. "Those are pitches that put their hitters ahead in the count and lead to walks."
Orioles Notes: Right-hander Kurt Ainsworth will be examined by team doctors in Baltimore on Friday, because he is still experiencing pain in his elbow. Ainsworth, who began the season in the Orioles' rotation, is on the disabled list with Class AAA Ottawa and was being treated with a cortisone shot and rest. . . .
Infielder Jose Bautista was claimed off waivers by Tampa Bay on Thursday. Because he was a Rule 5 draft pick by the Orioles in December, the Devil Rays are required to carry him on their 25-man roster, which means he will be in uniform Friday when the Devil Rays open a three-game series at Baltimore.
© 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).