Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, April 16, 2005; Page D01
BALTIMORE, April 15 -- They celebrated in a home that until Friday had usually been overtaken by a bunch of rowdy, noisy neighbors from the north. It has been more than seven seasons since the crowd at Oriole Park at Camden Yards was decidedly full of Baltimore fans during visits by the New York Yankees. Yet for most of Friday's 8-1 Baltimore win, Yankees fans sat on their hands while the Orioles celebrated thumping New York for the third time in four games. Perhaps this is a rivalry once again. Improving Baltimore's chances in the American League East must come at the Yankees' expense. So far so good. The three wins against New York have come by a combined score of 27-10. New York has a 4-6 record for the first time since 1991 and it was the unheralded Bruce Chen who with a four-hitter sent them there.
"I felt like I was throwing strikes," Chen said. "I felt like I had good command. I'm very proud. The Yankees are a very tough team."
Sammy Sosa connects for a solo homer to give Baltimore a 3-1 lead in the sixth inning.
(Joel Richardson - The Washington Post)
• It will be tough for the Orioles- Nationals matchup to join the ranks of great baseball rivalries. • A closer look at the Nationals' rivals in the NL East. • Thomas Boswell: The old rivalry between Washington and Baltimore should not take long to heat up. • The Red Sox-Yankees rivalry is the best in sports and only figures to get more intense this season. • A timeline of the Red Sox and Yankees' shared history. • Many teams have laid claim to being the top rival of the Yankees. • Started in New York City and continued in California, the Giants- Dodgers rivalry is one for the ages. • Baseball Preview Section
These Orioles have stars to match any on the Yankees' roster. The two stars, Miguel Tejada and Sammy Sosa, combined for a triple, two home runs, a double and six RBI. They delivered the two biggest hits of the night with back-to-back home runs in the sixth inning that prompted roars from the crowd. First Tejada launched a drive over the center field wall. As he entered the dugout, Tejada pointed toward the crowd in the upper level. Sosa followed with a drive over the left field wall, his first at Camden Yards.
"It's exciting to see myself hit a home run and then see Sammy hit another one," Tejada said. "That's something we're going to do more in the season."
Tejada has led this recent Orioles revival at the plate and in spirit. Upon reaching first base after walking with the bases loaded in his second at-bat of the sixth, Tejada emphatically pumped his fist, sending his teammates and the crowd into a frenzy. Sosa finished off the Yankees with a double deep over the head of Bernie Williams, making the score 8-1. Twelve Orioles batted in the decisive sixth inning, chasing Carl Pavano.
In stomping New York again, Chen has shown himself to be quite a Yankees stopper. Chen's performance a week ago -- six innings, two earned runs -- at Yankee Stadium was noted by New York Manager Joe Torre, whose lineup on Friday was specifically designed to face the lefty. Hideki Matsui, the cleanup hitter, was dropped to the fifth spot. Alex Rodriguez batted in the cleanup spot for the first time this year. Williams batted second. It is perhaps a true sign of Chen's arrival that the Yankees have noticed how effective he could be.
"He certainly had a plan and did a hell of a job tonight," Torre said.
In one span from the fourth to seventh innings, Chen retired 11 consecutive Yankees.
"He teases the strike zone," Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter said. "He throws pitches that look good enough to hit but are just out of the zone."
Chen, as he did in his start a week ago, baffled the Yankees with a change-up that has revitalized his career. It took Chen, 27, seven seasons and eight teams to realize changing speeds may be the best way to stay in the majors.
"My change-up has been very good since I got it last year," Chen said. "It brought me back to the big leagues. I wish I had it when I was 21. Sometimes you want to throw hard, but you learn it's better to be nice and easy and throw strikes."
For awhile, Friday's game was a bitter reminder that it could have been Pavano pitching against the Yankees had the offseason worked out in Baltimore's favor. Pavano, the premier starting pitcher on the free agent market, spurned an offer for more money from the Orioles to sign with the Yankees. The two sides are already developing quite a history. On Sunday, a line drive from Melvin Mora struck Pavano on the head, just above the right ear, ending his second start of the year in the third inning.
It was Chen, though, acquired last season from the Toronto Blue Jays for future considerations, who performed like the multimillion dollar pitcher. In his homeland of Panama most baseball fans follow the Yankees. Most everywhere Chen goes in Panama he sees Yankees hats. Perhaps there, just like at Camden Yards, Chen will now start to see more Baltimore fans.