Yankees 7, Orioles 6
He held in his hand a simple penny that had been offered by his wife. She had found it face up in New York, a sure sign of good luck he thought. Perhaps it would end a curse that had seemed to follow his baseball team. But after Sam Perlozzo's Baltimore Orioles had lost yet again to the Yankees, this time 7-6, the interim manager simply offered the penny to anyone who still cared to believe in its power. It didn't bring him -- or the Orioles -- any luck.
The Orioles left New York battered and bruised, having been swept in the four-game series to run their losing streak to eight and assuring themselves of an eighth consecutive losing season in the process. Sure, they were competitive against the Yankees -- all four games were decided by three runs or fewer -- but that was of little consolation to Perlozzo.
"We need to get the organization back on track," Perlozzo said. "That's the bottom line. And we're going to do that. We're going to get it back on track and that's my job. I don't like another losing season and nobody else in the organization does, we need to go ahead and start getting the idea that this is not going to happen anymore and work hard to do that and I think we'll be committed to do that.
"We had tons and tons of problems that didn't help out. I think the season would have gone a lot better than it did, barring some injuries and the off-field stuff."
This night belonged to Yankees catcher Jorge Posada. His solo home run in the fifth inning, which Orioles center fielder Luis Matos gamely chased before the ball disappeared over the center field wall, tied the score at 1. His three-run homer in the sixth, which landed in the upper deck in left field and left no doubt, gave New York a 5-1 lead.
While the crowd gave Posada an all-too-familiar curtain call after his home run in the sixth, followed by chants of "Hip Hip Jorge," Perlozzo walked slowly from the dugout and took out Bruce Chen, who in a season full of agonizing twists and turns had been Baltimore's most consistent pitcher despite the fact he was the team's fifth starter.
Prior to Thursday, Chen had not allowed more than three earned runs in a start since July 27 and had the third-best ERA (1.84) in the majors since Aug. 1, trailing only Minnesota's Johan Santana and Florida's Dontrelle Willis. But even he could not stop the surging Yankees, allowing five runs in just 51/3 innings.
Chen had not trusted pitching coach Ray Miller, who after Posada's first home run, had told the left-hander to be wary of throwing too many fastballs to Posada. Chen had given Posada two curveballs out of the strike zone, then threw a fastball that Posada hit for the home run.
"We told him to stay away from him and to use his off-speed pitches," Perlozzo said. "Son of a gun goes and comes back with a fastball down and in. Wasn't what we expected."
Chen said he felt he had to throw a fastball after falling behind 3-and-2 to Posada. With two runners on base Chen had to give in.
"I was very confident with my fastball," Chen said. "I felt if I walked him I'm out of the game."
The Yankees used the four-game sweep to take a full one-game lead in the American League East. Baltimore can do New York another favor by beating the second-place Boston Red Sox, who arrive at Camden Yards on Friday for a three-game series that could go a long way toward determining the AL East.
But in the surest sign that Perlozzo hasn't conceded anything yet, soon after giving away his lucky penny, he reached for a wishbone that was near his set of keys. He had been waiting to find someone to pull the other end.