Orioles battle back to salvage split Down 6-1 in nightcap, O's get Zeile lift to end Yanks series in 10-9 win

Mussina lasts 2 in 9-3 opener

Avoiding sweep keeps O's within 4 games

Al East Showdown

September 20, 1996|By Buster Olney | Buster Olney,SUN STAFF

NEW YORK -- The Yankees had one victory in hand yesterday and led the Orioles 6-1 in the fourth inning of the second game, and New York fans, who never miss an opportunity to humiliate, denigrate or otherwise insult, began the inevitable chant. SWEEP! SWEEP!

A nice idea. Just one problem: The Yankees would eventually lose, victims of the Orioles' exceptional fortitude in the final five innings.

The Orioles blew a late-inning lead Wednesday night, then saw ace Mike Mussina last only two innings in a disheartening 9-3 loss in the first game of the doubleheader yesterday. The Yankees savaged Orioles starter David Wells in the first four innings of the second game, and down five runs, the Orioles faced disaster.

Their hopes of winning the American League East were evaporating, and their lead over Seattle in the wild-card race shrinking. But the Orioles came back to win, 10-9, scoring three runs in the eighth off Yankees reliever Mariano Rivera. Todd Zeile singled on an 0-2 pitch to score Roberto Alomar with the lead run. The Orioles are four games behind the Yankees in the AL East race, their chances of winning the division fading, but they lead Seattle in the wild-card chase by 1 1/2 games.

Cecil Fielder hit two homers off Wells in the first three innings, including a 446-foot bomb to the back of the Orioles bullpen beyond left field. Feeling good about their chances, a number of Yankees fans began raising brooms in the stands and taunting the Orioles with a mournful, collective call of SWEEP.

The Yankees loaded the bases in the fourth inning, and Orioles right-hander Terry Mathews replaced Wells and retired Fielder on a deep fly. At the time, it seemed as if Mathews had only saved the Orioles the humiliation of one-sided losses in both games of the doubleheader. But limiting the Yankees' rally in the fourth turned out to be extremely important.

Yankees starter David Cone was pitching on shortened rest, as Mussina had tried to do, and he began to disintegrate in the fifth inning, allowing two runs on consecutive singles by Brady Anderson and Alomar, a balk and a two-run single by Zeile.

New York pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre chatted with Cone after the fifth, asking him how he felt, and Cone convinced him he was OK, he wanted to stay in the game.

But Murray doubled to lead off the Orioles' sixth, and B. J. Surhoff singled Murray to third. Yankees manager Joe Torre trotted to the mound to check on Cone, and again, the veteran was convincing; he wanted to pitch to Chris Hoiles, who was pinch hitting for Mark Parent.

Cone walked Hoiles on four pitches, and Torre finally called for relief, left-hander Graeme Lloyd, who was no relief. Lloyd threw a wild pitch, giving up an RBI single to Anderson and a run-scoring fly ball by Alomar, and the Orioles dugout was alive. Tie score, 6-6.

The Orioles moved ahead in the top of the seventh on a broken, bizarre play. Murray was on second and Hoiles hit a checked-swing blooper to right field. Third base coach Sam Perlozzo frantically waved Murray home, but the veteran hesitated. Once first baseman Fielder cut off the throw home near first, Hoiles was caught between first and second.

Fielder looked at Murray, then moved to tag Hoiles. But Hoiles scampered back and dove away from his tag, grabbing the corner of a base in a slide that would've made Alomar proud. Fielder lunged and failed to tag Hoiles, and as he tried, Murray raced home.

The Yankees tied the score at 7-7 in the bottom of the inning, when Bernie Williams blasted a homer to right. Torre went to Mariano Rivera, the hard-throwing middle reliever who will get some support for the Cy Young Award.

The Orioles ripped him. Alomar doubled to the left-center-field wall, Zeile singled on an 0-2 pitch to drive home Alomar.

Zeile scored on a fielder's choice grounder, and Cal Ripken smashed a long double to right-center, giving the Orioles a 10-7 lead, and as each runner returned to the dugout, he was lost in a road-gray sea of high-fives and fist-bumps. This was big.

The Orioles did not win without a little more drama in the bottom of the ninth. Alan Mills, who pitched 1 1/3 innings in Wednesday's 3-2 loss, pitched the eighth inning and retired Derek Jeter to open the bottom of the ninth.

But Tim Raines walked, and Williams hit his second homer of the game. Fielder ambled to the plate, with a chance to tie the score with a home run.

Mills struck him out on a high fastball, and Johnson called for Myers, who earlier in the day reiterated his unhappiness with Johnson's decision to yank him out of Wednesday's game. Myers struck out Tino Martinez to register his 30th save, and salvage the split for the Orioles.

In the opener, New York's Kenny Rogers (11-8), pulled from his previous start after four innings at Toronto because of a sore shoulder, got his first win in six starts.

"I really didn't dwell on that," Rogers said of his shoulder problem. "I just tried to blank out everything."

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