A Sept. 20 Sports article incorrectly said that Jay Gibbons drove in a run for the Baltimore Orioles with a bases-loaded single in the first inning against the New York Yankees. Gibbons's single came with runners on first and second. (Published 9/28/2005)
Yankees 3, Orioles 2
He knew there would be roars and enthusiastic cheers from the rabid crowd, as there always are in the middle of a pennant chase at Yankee Stadium. Few places can match this grand old stadium, home to 26 world championships. Its team is usually intimidating enough, but the stadium itself, well, it's known that certain ghosts here can make certain teams stumble at the most opportunistic moments.
It was those loud cheers, though, that Baltimore Orioles interim manager Sam Perlozzo wanted to channel. Perlozzo hoped the electric atmosphere would rub off on his team, a sad bunch that needed a jolt.
"Well, we know they're going to be energized," Perlozzo said. "That's not good. But it should keep us energized."
The old house shook, from the rafters to the luxury boxes, when Bubba Crosby hit a game-winning home run, his first of the season, into the right field bleachers to lead off the ninth inning, giving the Yankees a 3-2 win over the Orioles. New York is now just a half-game out of the division lead in the American League East.
"I thought they'd send [Ruben] Sierra and try to win the game with a homer," Perlozzo said. "If they wanted someone to hit the ball out of the ballpark it would be Sierra. The homer is the last thing I thought would happen. But give Crosby credit, it was no cheapie."
It was not so long ago that Perlozzo thought the final games of the season at Yankee Stadium would mean something for his team. Instead it only has become meaningful for the Yankees, who if the season ended today, would fail to make the playoffs for the first time since 1993. Those are dire circumstances clinging to the team from the Bronx, which in each offseason after a failed year -- defined in New York by a lack of a championship -- always seems to be in some kind of transition.
The Orioles, thought to be out of the pennant race weeks ago, will largely determine the Yankees' fate. After Monday, the Orioles play the Yankees seven times in the final two weeks of the season.
The Orioles could simply not elevate the ball against New York starter Chien-Ming Wang. In eight innings, Baltimore had just one fly out against him. All seven of their hits against him were singles. By the end of the eighth inning, Wang had nine assists, two short of the record. Even the hulking Walter Young, all 6 feet 5, 322 pounds of him, barely managed to hit the ball past the mound in his three trips against Wang.
"I had a hard time squaring the ball up," Young said. "A couple of guys said the last time they faced him he didn't have such late movement."
Baltimore scored its two runs on a bases-loaded single by Jay Gibbons in the first and a groundout by Miguel Tejada in the third. Otherwise Baltimore was powerless against Wang, making just his third start since returning from a two-month absence because of right shoulder inflammation.
"The guys were coming back saying how much the balls were sinking," Perlozzo said. "We were almost to the point of checking him [for scuffing the ball]. His sinker was the key."
Baltimore held the 2-0 lead until the fifth inning, when the Yankees finally got to Orioles starter Erik Bedard. He allowed the first four batters to reach base in the inning and the Yankees then tied the game on a groundout by Gary Sheffield. Yet it was still an encouraging outing for Bedard.
Since returning from the disabled list after missing almost two months with a sprained left knee, Bedard has won only once. Monday was the first time since Aug. 9 he had pitched at least six innings and allowed two runs or fewer.
"I just had command of three pitches," Bedard said. "My secondary pitches, like the curveball and change-up, I threw for strikes."
It was Crosby's home run, though, that will prove most memorable this night. Moments after his blast, inching the Yankees closer to the Boston Red Sox, the crowd gave Crosby a curtain call.
"I never hit a walk-off home run ever, never in my whole life," Crosby said. "Not even little league. To do it at Yankee Stadium, at this time of the year when it counts, doesn't get any better than that."