Yankees 9, Orioles 7
The Baltimore Orioles came here four days ago with a healthy post-all-star-game record, a list of potential trade upgrades and the faintest hint of something resembling hope. They departed somberly late Sunday afternoon, as Orioles teams have been doing for years, just another beaten-down team whose flickering heartbeat was snuffed out by the New York Yankees.
There is no venue like Yankee Stadium to remind the Orioles of their place, as was evidenced again in a 9-7 loss in front of 51,632.
The loss sent the Orioles back home with only one win in this four-game series. They are 9-9 since the all-star break, 26-41 since May 20, 2-11 against the Yankees this season and 11-24 at Yankee Stadium since the start of the 2001 season.
"I know it's tough to play here," said Orioles Manager Lee Mazzilli, who was on the other side of the brutality as the Yankees' first base coach from 2000 to '03. "But you can't be intimidated playing here. You still have to go out and play."
After seeing right-hander Rodrigo Lopez knocked from the game after allowing eight runs in the fourth and fifth innings, the Orioles pounded the soft middle of the Yankees' bullpen in the late innings, drawing within striking distance and forcing Yankees Manager Joe Torre to call upon a pair of overworked relievers -- set-up man Paul Quantrill and closer Mariano Rivera.
David Newhan's two-run double in the seventh inning off Quantrill -- who entered with the bases loaded and a 2-0 count, courtesy of Tanyon Sturtze -- and Miguel Tejada's homer leading off the ninth against Scott Proctor gave the Orioles a flicker of hope, until Rivera retired pinch hitter B.J. Surhoff to end the game with the tying runs in scoring position. It was Rivera's 38th save.
"We've gone [to those guys] quite a bit," Torre said, "but I feel very good about our bullpen."
Still, the heavy use of Torre's top relievers is one of many concerns for the Yankees, as Quantrill, Rivera and Tom Gordon have made 58, 52 and 52 appearances this season, respectively, ranking as the top three in the league in that category.
Lopez's middle-innings crash came out of nowhere. He breezed through the Yankees' lineup the first time through, recording five strikeouts in his first eight batters. However, Lopez was throwing all hard stuff -- fastballs and hard sliders -- and the Yankees soon caught on, crushing him the next time through.
Five runs were scored in the fourth, two on Hideki Matsui's slicing double to left and two on Tony Clark's towering drive to right, which landed 10 rows deep in the upper deck.
"I really can't explain it," said Lopez (8-7), whose previous start, July 27, was rained out in the third inning. "I felt so strong, and I wasn't able to control it, I think. I wasn't changing speeds. . . . I have to learn from this start."
Yankees starter Orlando Hernandez (3-0) racked up nine strikeouts in five innings, and his mistakes came with no one on base, thus inflicting minimal damage. Melvin Mora and Rafael Palmeiro each rapped solo homers, with Mora's giving the Orioles a brief 1-0 lead in the third.
Palmeiro's homer, his first in more than three weeks, came one day after he was given a rare day off against a right-handed pitcher (Javier Vazquez). Palmeiro also nearly knocked over the right field wall with a line-drive single in the second inning.
However, the Orioles can also look back at countless scoring chances that failed to materialize. In the first inning, Jerry Hairston, who had led off with a double, got caught off second base on Mora's grounder to shortstop and eventually was tagged out in a rundown. The Orioles stranded two runners in each of the next three innings, and two more in the seventh.
"You start the first inning with a man on second and nobody out," Mazzilli said. "That's a run we've got to get."
Torre has Sturtze and Proctor to blame for forcing him to lean on his horses again. Leading 9-3, Sturtze still managed to turn the seventh inning into a stomach-churner that required Quantrill's services to quell.
It appeared as if Rivera might get a day off until Proctor served up Tejada's 21st homer and followed by walking Palmeiro.
And then Yankee Stadium erupted at the first chords of Metallica's "Enter Sandman" -- Rivera's menacing entrance music -- and Rivera bailed another hapless reliever out of another messy situation. Notwithstanding a throwing error on Rivera, which put the Orioles in position to score a seventh run on Larry Bigbie's RBI groundout, he closed out the Yankees win and squashed another Orioles dream.
Orioles Notes: Right fielder Jay Gibbons (strained hip flexor) will begin a rehabilitation assignment Monday with Class A Frederick and could be activated from the disabled list by the end of the week. . . . Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter went 3 for 5 with two runs scored, and is hitting .400 and slugging .818 against the Orioles this season, .254 and .378 against everyone else.