Baltimore's Lenn Sakata, who had committed only one error all season, went to second base in the eighth inning tonight because of his defensive excellence. But in the ninth, Sakata had one misplay and two errors, letting New York rally for a 4-3 victory over the Orioles in festive Yankee Stadium.
Bobby Meacham, who has done almost as much as Rickey Henderson to help New York take six straight games from Baltimore this season, broke his bat but singled to left center with one out and the bases loaded to erase Baltimore's 3-2 lead.
"The kid just doesn't make errors," Baltimore Manager Earl Weaver said of Sakata. "He had just gone 70-some games without making an error. Then we get beat on a broken-bat hit, that's the topper of all."
The inning began when Dave Winfield's grounder toward right field was cut off by Sakata, who had replaced Rich Dauer at second base. But Sakata's feet got tangled went he started to throw. The ball skipped to first base, and Winfield beat the throw for a hit.
Don Aase replaced starting pitcher Scott McGregor and got Don Baylor to hit what would have been a double-play grounder. But the ball popped out of Sakata's glove for an error, which left two Yankees on base instead of none.
"If he doesn't slip on the first one, he's in no hurry to field the second one," Weaver said. "But one set up the other."
Aase's pickoff throw to second base to check Winfield skipped off Sakata's glove for another error, allowing Winfield to advance to third and pinch runner Omar Moreno to second.
"The pickoff, we were just letting him know we were there," Weaver said, continuing to relive the final moments. "I don't even know how the ball got to the outfield."
After an intentional walk to pinch hitter Ken Griffey, Tippy Martinez relieved Aase. Pinch hitter Scott Bradley popped out before Meacham got his two-run single.
Baltimore, which has lost three straight games and seven of nine, fell into fifth place, seven games behind first-place Toronto in the American League East.
Reliever Dave Righetti (5-6), who worked two-thirds of an inning, got the victory. Aase (3-4) was the loser.
Meacham, who hits in the No. 8 or No. 9 spot in the lineup, reached base six times against the Orioles in this three-game series.
He obviously was elated over his first game-winning hit since May 11. But, as a shortstop, he could identify with what happened to Sakata.
"That's the way it always is," Meacham said. "You know (after the first error) that the ball is going to come at you every time. He should have shaken it off after the first one, but then it found him two more times."
When someone asked Weaver about what "the Yankees did tonight," he said, "What the Yankees did? What did they do? They didn't do much of anything unless they got the voodoo dolls out and started sticking the pins in us."
Weaver thought his team's luck was changing early in the game. The Orioles, despite Henderson's four stolen bases, took a 3-2 lead into the ninth behind the six-hit pitching of McGregor.
The Orioles even accomplished something done only once before this season. They caught Henderson trying to steal in the third when McGregor picked him off second base.
Lee Lacy had four hits, including the triple that preceded Fred Lynn's sacrifice fly in the third that put the Orioles ahead, 3-1. Baltimore even got production from the bottom of the lineup. No. 8 hitter Mike Young drove in the game's first run and Rich Dauer (two hits) got his second RBI since May 5 with a single to center.
McGregor survived the seventh after New York got lucky singles from Juan Espino and Meacham. He retired the side in order -- Henderson, Willie Randolph and Don Mattingly -- in the eighth.
That's when Weaver put Sakata at second and moved Dauer to third. "You better believe it," Weaver said when asked if he had his best defensive infield in the game.
But the Orioles, in a near total reversal of tradition, have been finding ways to lose games. They still haven't beaten a team other than Milwaukee since June 5. After having Thursday off, Baltimore will face Boston in Fenway Park.
Weaver knew he would have to move on, but tonight's game wouldn't leave him immediately.
"I couldn't ask any more from Scotty," he said. "I couldn't ask any more from Aase. And Tippy comes in and breaks a guy's bat."
As McGregor said, "One-run games are always exciting. But it certainly turned sour for us."