Yankees' 6-5 win in 11 innings deals O's early strikeout

August 09, 1994|By Tom Keegan | Tom Keegan,Sun Staff Writer

NEW YORK -- The Orioles were mathematically eliminated last night from being in position for a playoff spot if the expected strike hits Friday.

Fittingly, the two factors that resulted in their fast fade from the AL East race met last night for the first time during the fade.

New York came from behind and the Orioles fell from ahead, a pattern that enabled the Yankees to take command of the division they led by only a half game on July 15.

Randy Velarde's single to right-center off Mark Eichhorn scored Luis Polonia from second base to lead the Yankees past the Orioles, 6-5, in 11 innings at Yankee Stadium.

The Yankees rallied from deficits of 4-0 in the third and 5-4 in the 10th to move nine games ahead of the Orioles. The Orioles have three pre-strike games remaining and are 3 1/2 games behind the Cleveland Indians in the wild-card race.

"That's not the goal," Orioles manager Johnny Oates said. "The goal is to win as many games as we can."

The Yankees defeated the Orioles for the sixth time in eight games this season. But even if the present looks gloomy, Armando Benitez gave the Orioles reason to feel a little better about the future.

Benitez pitched for Class-A Frederick at this time last year, and he pitched at Yankee Stadium last night.

Did he ever. Benitez struck out five batters in 3 2/3 innings, threw in the high 90s, and ended four consecutive innings with a strikeout.

"He isn't just a hard thrower who doesn't know where it's going," Yankees first baseman Don Mattingly said. "He has an idea of what he's doing."

One Benitez fastball was clocked at 98 mph. Benitez almost came away with his first major-league victory. Instead, the win went to Yankees closer Steve Howe (3-0), and Eichhorn (6-5) took the loss.

With the score 4-4 after nine innings, Leo Gomez drove in the go-ahead run in the 10th inning with a one-out single to left that scored Rafael Palmeiro from third base, but the Yankees tied it in the bottom of the inning on pinch hitter Matt Nokes' bases-loaded sacrifice fly to left.

Left-handers Sid Fernandez and Sterling Hitchcock pitched to a 4-4 tie before turning their starts over to the bullpen. Benitez shut down the Yankees and Joe Ausino muzzled the Orioles' offense.

Benitez, 21, has struck out 14 batters in 10 major-league innings and has given up one run. He stranded a runner in the sixth, two in the eighth and two more in the ninth.

Yankees manager Buck Showalter sent left-hander Rob Murphy to the mound to start the 10th. Palmeiro greeted him with a double to left, advanced to third on a grounder to the mound and scored on Gomez's single to left.

Oates sent Benitez to start the 10th and removed him after a one-out single by Mike Stanley, who was lifted for a pinch runner.

With closer Lee Smith feeling the effects of the flu, Oates summoned left-hander Jim Poole, who failed to retire either left-handed batter he faced. Mattingly singled, and Paul O'Neill walked to load the bases and force a pitching change.

Eichhorn replaced Poole, and Nokes lofted a fly near the foul line in left. Boston slid in ahead of Brady Anderson's throw to the plate, which arrived on the fly and off line to the first-base side, tying the score 5-5.

Benitez, who entered with two outs and a runner on second in the sixth and struck out Gallego to strand Fernandez's runners, faced a tough spot in the eighth, when the Yankees put two on with one out.

Benitez retired Mattingly on a fly to left, and Showalter called upon the best left-handed bat he had on the bench. O'Neill, batting .361 overall and .390 with runners in scoring position, was announced as the pinch hitter. Oates decided to let the rookie from San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic, challenge O'Neill with his fastball, rather than summon Poole.

"If you ever read the book [on playing the percentages], there were so many times when I was supposed to go get him, but I said let him go one more, let him go one more," Oates said.

O'Neill took strike one, fouled back a pitch, and fanned at strike three, stranding two runners and continuing Benitez's impressive run.

In the ninth, Bernie Williams and Wade Boggs reached on two-out singles, putting Benitez in another jam. This time, Luis Polonia was the victim. Swinging way late, Polonia struck out on a high fastball.

In all, Orioles pitchers totaled 10 strikeouts.

Fernandez's New York homecoming capsulized his first American League season in that it included a home run ball and generally was nothing about which to brag, but he did strike out the side in order in the first.

Fernandez gave up four earned runs on six hits and five walks in 5 2/3 innings. He struck out five and gave up a home run for the 27th time this season.

"He couldn't get his breaking ball over, and they were sitting on nothing but fastballs," Oates said of Fernandez.

The Orioles batted around and scored four runs off Hitchcock in the third inning.

Steadily, the Yankees chipped away at the lead.

Gerald Williams' two-out double in the sixth inning tied the score, 4-4, and inspired Oates to make a pitching change.

On came Benitez.

The potential Orioles closer put an end to the inning by striking out Gallego on a 94-mph fastball.

Making his first start since July 29, Lonnie Smith reached on a leadoff walk in the third inning and advanced to third on Mike Devereaux's double to right. After Anderson walked to load the bases, Jeffrey Hammonds (sacrifice fly), Palmeiro (single to right), Cal Ripken (infield hit) and Chris Hoiles (sacrifice fly) drove in runs.

@

ORIOLES TONIGHT

Opponent: New York Yankees

Site: Yankee Stadium, New York

Time: 8:05

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

Starters: Orioles' Jamie Moyer (4-7, 4.72) vs. Yankees' Jim Abbott (9-7, 4.36)

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