NEW YORK -- In the opener of their weekend series against the New York Yankees, the Orioles ran into a left-handed mismatch made for May.
Jamie Moyer was the Orioles' nominee to pitch the first of three games against the American League East leaders, with Jim Abbott handling honors for the Yankees. The two left-handers not only had markedly different records against their respective opponents, but their fortunes during the month of May also were opposite.
The result was as predictable as the statistics indicated, as the Yankees scored all of their runs in the fourth inning and coasted to a 5-1 win.
Abbott (5-2) gave up six hits in seven innings to earn the victory. A three-run homer by Randy Velarde, his first of the year, highlighted the fourth-inning outburst and provided the finishing blow for both Moyer and the Orioles.
The win enabled the Yankees to stretch their AL East lead to 1 1/2 games over the Boston Red Sox. The Orioles' loss, the sixth in their past seven games, dropped them 4 1/2 games off the pace, && their largest deficit of the year. Their only consolation of the game was a first-inning single by Rafael Palmeiro that extended his hitting streak to 22 games, which equals a club record and is the longest in the major leagues this year.
Besides Velarde, the chief tormentors for the Yankees were Don Mattingly, who had three hits, and Paul O'Neill, who had two singles and two walks to increase his major-league leading batting average to .465.
Moyer (1-3) remained winless for his career against the Yankees (0-4) after giving up nine hits in 3 2/3 innings. Abbott (5-2) ran his lifetime record against the Orioles to 7-1.
The win also improved Abbott's career record for the month of May to 16-9, the most victories he's recorded in any month. The loss was the 17th straight major-league setback for Moyer in May.
Although they came into the game with a team .366 batting average against Abbott, the Orioles have never fared well against him collectively. And, even though they had at least one runner on base every inning against the left-hander, that pattern continued last night.
"It seems like it's the same every time he pitches against us," Orioles manager Johnny Oates said. "We get a guy on base, the infielders move into the hole, he throws that cut fastball and they turn a double play."
It's similar to the kind of magic Moyer enjoyed last year, but hasn't experienced yet this season. "It's early," he said. "Things can turn around. They're playing well right now and we're struggling a little bit."
Although the home run by Velarde was the big blow against Moyer last night, the key hit of the inning may have been delivered by Pat Kelly. It traveled less than 150 feet, a pop fly down the right-field line that bounced into the stands for a double and drove in the game's second run.
"That's the difference between going good and bad," Oates said. "Earlier [in the second inning] we had a guy on, and Lonnie Smith hit one down there that was foul by about four inches. Kelly's dropped just on the other side of the line.
"The Yankees are playing real good right now [11 victories in their past 13 games], and we're not. Those kind [of hits] go your way when you're going good, and the other way when you're not."
Moyer escaped skirmishes in the first three innings before the Yankees sent nine batters to the plate in the fourth. Two runners were stranded in scoring position in the first, when Jim Leyritz grounded out after Luis Polonia had led off with a single and gone to third on Danny Tartabull's two-out double.
Paul O'Neill led off the second with a walk, but the next three batters went out routinely. An inning later, Don Mattingly stroked a two-out double down the right-field line, but Tartabull bounced to third baseman Leo Gomez for the third out.
Through the first three innings the Yankees had the same number of hits as the Orioles, three, but they quickly tripled that total against Moyer in the fourth. With one out, O'Neill singled to right and scored when Bernie Williams rifled a shot into the right-center-field gap that went for a double.
Mike Gallego's single to right put runners on first and third, and Kelly followed with his pop fly that bounced into the stands for a ground-rule double. Polonia's ensuing grounder to second baseman Tim Hulett resulted in Gallego being caught in a rundown, but the inning's final out proved elusive for Moyer.
With runners on second and third, Velarde got an 0-and-1 pitch to his liking and drove it far over the left-field fence. When Mattingly followed with a single, Moyer left with a five-run deficit.
Meanwhile, though they had a hit in each of the first three innings, the Orioles couldn't mount a threat against Abbott. Two-out singles by Palmeiro in the first inning and Hulett in the second were window dressing. And Jack Voigt's leadoff single in the third was quickly negated when Brady Anderson grounded into a double play.
It wasn't until the seventh inning that the Orioles scored. And their run was the result of a mix-up between Polonia in left field and Williams in center. A long fly ball by Gomez fell between the outfielders with one out. Hulett drew a walk and Smith lined a single to center to load the bases.
Voigt's bid for a base hit through the middle was thwarted when Kelly made a diving stop behind second base. The Yankees barely missed a spectacular double play when Gallego's throw pulled Mattingly off first base, allowing Gomez to score.
When Anderson followed with a walk, the bases were reloaded. But Mike Devereaux flied out to end the Orioles' only serious threat.
Opponent: New York Yankees
Site: Yankee Stadium
Time: 1:35 p.m.
TV/Radio:Ch. 54/WBAL (1090 AM)
Starters: Orioles' Arthur Rhodes (1-4, 7.62) vs. Yankees' Melido Perez (2-2, 3.88)