O's yank 1 win out of New York

May 23, 1994|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Sun Staff Writer

NEW YORK -- It was more of a marathon than a classic, but the Orioles' 6-5, 10-inning win over the New York Yankees here yesterday registered big on the importance meter.

"It was probably as big as the 40th game of the season can be for us," said manager Johnny Oates, who fidgeted in the clubhouse after the fifth inning, when he was ejected by plate umpire John Shulock. "I don't know what a turnaround game is, but this was big. It was huge."

There was added significance for a variety of reasons. The Orioles had lost four straight and seven of eight. The Yankees were on a 12-2 tear, had won nine in a row at home and had opened some daylight at the top of the American League East.

The win not only enabled the Orioles to salvage one win in the three-game series, but also enabled them to leave town trailing the division leaders by 4 1/2 games instead of 6 1/2 . "I think it's a little early to call a loss crushing or devastating," said starting pitcher Mike Mussina, who was unable to join the short list of eight-game winners, leaving after six innings with the score 3-3.

"But it was the difference between losing one game in the loss column instead of three. And that's big, especially since it's the start of a road trip and we're going to two cities [Milwaukee and Chicago] where we've had trouble in the past."

The Orioles were never behind yesterday, but they lost the lead three times, an ominous sign for a struggling team. Even after Jack Voigt floated a two-run single to center to break a 4-4 tie in the 10th inning, the Orioles had to sweat out the finish after Paul O'Neill, the human hitting machine, hit his 10th homer of the year with two outs.

Lee Smith, gaining his major-league-leading 17th save, finally concluded the suspense by getting Daryl Boston to fly out to end the game. Mark Williamson (2-0), who had surrendered a game-tying homer to Jim Leyritz in the eighth, emerged with the victory after pitching a strong ninth inning.

Voigt's game-winning hit followed a two-out pinch single by Harold Baines and Leo Gomez's fourth hit, and second double, of the day. Xavier Hernandez (2-2), was the victim of the 10th-inning rally.

Earlier it looked as though the Orioles might break the game open against Jimmy Key, the Yankees' veteran left-handed ace. They managed 11 hits in the first five innings, but six of them came with two outs and resulted in a 3-1 lead.

"We don't usually get to him like that," said Oates. "It seemed like we had more hits [16] than we had all week, and that's a good sign. Now, if we can bunch some of them we'll be OK."

The Orioles' best opportunity to break the game open came in the fifth inning. A single by Rafael Palmeiro, who had extended his season-high hitting streak to 24 games four innings earlier, and a walk to Cal Ripken preceded Chris Hoiles' double into the left-center-field gap.

Palmeiro scored on the play and third base coach Jerry Narron gambled by also sending Ripken on the play. When Shulock ruled that Leyritz made the tag, Ripken protested the call and was joined immediately by Oates.

The disagreement ended with Oates' first ejection of the year, and the Orioles' bats swiftly went cold. Hoiles went to third on the disputed play, but was stranded when Yankees third baseman Randy Velarde threw out Mike Devereaux on a slow bouncer and Chris Sabo on a sharply hit grounder that required an excellent play behind the base.

An inning later the Yankees tied the score. The two runs were set up by a pair of flukish hits -- a single by Don Mattingly that glanced off Mussina's glove and a grounder by Danny Tartabull that Gomez didn't get out of his glove cleanly at third.

O'Neill, who went 3-for-4 and raised his average a mere 10 points to .475, lined a shot over Voigt's head in right field that was hit so hard it advanced the runners only one base. Leyritz then singled to center to tie the game, but Mussina escaped by getting three fly ball outs.

By then, Mussina (7-1) had thrown 127 pitches and he exited before the seventh inning for only the second time in 10 starts. He has yet to leave a game with the Orioles losing -- his lone loss coming when he departed with a 2-2 tie and a runner on base in the ninth inning of a game the California Angels won, 8-2, on April 20.

"It was a struggle to get him through that [sixth] inning," said Oates. "He came off and said something like 'I don't have anything left.' "

That information was relayed to Oates by hitting coach Greg Biagini, who was left in charge of dugout operations. After Mussina departed, the Orioles matched the Yankees by using five relief pitchers.

They got another scoreless inning (five total) out of left-hander Tom Bolton, and used Alan Mills and Jim Poole to strike out Tartabull and O'Neill before Williamson gave up the home run to Leyritz.

At that point the chances of avoiding a sweep appeared bleak for the Orioles. But Williamson regrouped and retired four of the last five batters he faced, Baines, Gomez and Voigt strung together three 10th-inning hits and Smith was able to close it out.

It might not have been a thing of beauty, but for the Orioles the win was about as vital as they come at this time of year.

ORIOLES TONIGHT

Opponent: Milwaukee Brewers

Site: County Stadium, Milwaukee

Time: 8:05

TV/Radio: Ch. 13/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: Orioles' Ben McDonald (7-2, 3.75) vs. Brewers' Ricky Bones (3-3, 1.89)

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