Yankees 2, Orioles 1
As they played their 101st game of the season Friday night, the Baltimore Orioles still had two second basemen in their lineup and their full assortment of arms in the bullpen. Their top baseball operations executive was in the stands at Yankee Stadium, holding a cell phone that wasn't ringing often enough.
The Orioles' front office now seems resigned to the fact Saturday's 4 p.m. trade deadline will pass without a deal involving the Orioles, a reality that added a bittersweet element to their 2-1 loss to the New York Yankees in front of 51,551 at Yankee Stadium.
The Orioles pitched valiantly and scraped together a couple of scoring chances against Yankees starter Kevin Brown and three relievers, but they were perhaps two bats and one arm short, falling to 2-9 this season against their rivals to the north.
"You never feel good about a loss," Manager Lee Mazzilli said, "but there was nothing you could do."
And it does not appear as if help is on the way. Before the game, Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Jim Beattie described the chances of the Orioles making a deadline deal as "very slight," citing several possibilities that had fallen through and a general lack of momentum in any particular direction.
"Other clubs are trying to do certain things [for which they] may have better opportunities somewhere else," Beattie said. "Our conversations have all been good. But for us, I don't think anything's going to happen."
The perception around the league is that the Orioles' demands are too high and their stance -- insisting upon major league talent in exchange for their players, as opposed to prospects -- too rigid. However, Beattie denied the assertions and said there are scenarios in which the Orioles would accept prospects.
"But we can't find the prospects that we like," Beattie said. "We haven't had any conversations with any general managers where they've said, 'You're out of your mind.' "
The Orioles had hoped to add a starting pitcher this week in a deadline deal, but they are getting by quite nicely these days with what they have.
On Friday night, rookie right-hander Daniel Cabrera pitched into the seventh inning, earning his 10th quality start in 17 tries. He did a fine job of navigating the Yankees' treacherous lineup, except for the cleanup hitter.
Yankees shortstop Alex Rodriguez whacked a belt-high fastball over the wall in left for a solo homer in the fourth, his 26th of the season. An inning later, coming to the plate after Cabrera (8-5) loaded the bases on three straight singles, Rodriguez narrowly missed what would have been the 11th grand slam of his career -- a towering drive to left that curled just outside the foul pole -- and two pitches later settled for a sacrifice that put the Yankees ahead.
"It was one of the best games maybe I've had in my life," Cabrera (8-5) said. "There [have been] a couple of others, but not against a team like that."
Between Dave Borkowski's seven shutout innings Wednesday night, Sidney Ponson's four-hitter on Thursday night and Cabrera's effort Friday night, the Orioles have seen their starters pitch to a 1.21 ERA over the past three games.
Meantime, in lieu of a trade for Arizona Diamondbacks lefty Randy Johnson -- which appears to be nearly dead as Saturday's deadline approaches -- Brown's start represented the next-closest thing to a major rotation upgrade for the Yankees
Brown, in his first start since going on the disabled list with a back strain seven weeks ago, held the Orioles to four hits over 61/3 stellar innings, turning the game over to the Yankees' trio of trusted relievers -- Tom Gordon, Paul Quantrill and Mariano Rivera, who earned his 36th save. The Orioles' run came when veteran left fielder B.J. Surhoff lined a solo homer over the wall in right to lead off the third inning
Shortstop Miguel Tejada, who led the majors in RBI entering the game, had a particularly difficult night, striking out three times -- including once with the bases loaded -- and grounding into a double play.
"Everything moved," Mora said of Brown's pitches. "He threw whatever he wanted. He's a smart pitcher."
Orioles Notes: If the Orioles fail to make a trade, it could mean they will play out the rest of the season with their two second basemen, Jerry Hairston and Brian Roberts. Hairston has expressed publicly his frustration with the arrangement, in which he has played primarily in right field while Roberts gets time at second.
Hairston has turned into a good right fielder in a short amount of time -- on Friday, he made a diving catch of Ruben Sierra's sinking liner down the line in the sixth inning, then sprung to his feet and doubled-up Hideki Matsui at first base -- but he has not strayed from his insistence that he is purely a second baseman. . . .
Right fielder Jay Gibbons (strained hip flexor) took batting practice with the team for the first time since going on the disabled list June 29. He could begin a minor league rehabilitation assignment in the next few days and be activated by the end of next week.