O's tell Yanks so long, 13-9 6th in row over N.Y. opens 8 1/2 -game lead in longest 9-inn. game

Pettitte bloodied in first

Irabu pounded as O's score in 8 of 9 innings

September 06, 1997|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

NEW YORK -- The verbal white flag spilled from the right-field bleachers one out into the seventh inning. Eventually it crawled into the upper deck, giving the early departures one last piece of abuse to hurl at their heroes.

"We want Boggs! We want Boggs! We want Boggs!" Instead they got slammed.

When the beating was finally over, the Orioles had turned a semblance of a pennant race into ritual torture. They knocked out New York Yankees ace Andy Pettitte with a line drive to the face in the first inning and abused their signature acquisition, Hideki Irabu, for nine runs, six earned. To make the hurt worse, the Orioles conspired to make their 13-9 win the longest nine-inning game in major-league history. It ended at midnight, 4: 22 after it started.

Two days after crawling out of South Florida after being swept three games by the Florida Marlins, the Orioles find themselves 8 1/2 games up in the American League East with only 24 games remaining. It's the Orioles' biggest lead since June 22.

The Yankees have 23 games left. Mathematically, nothing's decided. Realistically, call it a race.

"Nothing's impossible. I wouldn't say that," said Orioles manager Davey Johnson. "We won the first two games. That's good. What we've gained we don't want to give back. I want to win the division. But I'm not going to take it for granted. I don't take it for granted we've won anything."

Yankee Stadium reacted as if something big had been lost. When they weren't chanting for backup third baseman Wade Boggs to step in as a relief pitcher, Yankees fans turned ugly. Before the bottom of the seventh inning they littered left field. A bottle thrown from the upper deck landed about 20 feet behind Cal Ripken in the outfield grass.

"It's never impossible until it's mathematically impossible," Orioles first baseman Rafael Palmeiro said. "We're going to approach it like that. It's never over until it's mathematically over. That's the way we're going to approach it."

Joe Torre says the Yankees stink. Catcher Joe Girardi says it. Owner George Steinbrenner says it. Last night, the Orioles made it so, winning their sixth straight game against the defending world champions who owned them a year ago. The Yankees have lost eight of the past nine overall.

"We're reeling right now and we're trying to hold on," said David Cone, one of the Yankees' many injured players.

Despite an indifferent start from Jimmy Key and troubled appearances by wrung-out relievers Shawn Boskie and Jesse Orosco, the Orioles overwhelmed the Yankees, scoring in eight of nine innings. They led 6-2, 7-3 and 11-4, though the Yankees won the hit battle, 16-15, scoring a run on two hits against Randy Myers in the ninth.

Brady Anderson and Geronimo Berroa each contributed three hits. Rookie Aaron Ledesma was one of four Orioles with two hits and scored twice. Palmeiro hit his 33rd home run and reached 95 RBIs.

Coupled with Thursday's 5-2 win, the Orioles haven't scored this many runs in consecutive games since Aug. 2-3.

The fitting loser was the Japanese import Irabu. No one better symbolizes the Yankees' recent collapse than the shockingly average right-hander who arrived for three years at $12.6 million. Irabu has never justified the hyperbolic press that accompanied his negotiations and ultimate signing. His June arrival represented a supposed coup for Steinbrenner. His presence now invites only ridicule from the disenchanted bleacher crazies.

Irabu entered the game in the second inning after Pettitte suffered a knockout punch from Ripken's line drive to the mound.

Ripken's shot grazed Pettitte's thumb, bloodied his mouth, split his nose and sent him sprawling backward.

"It was very frightening," Ripken said of the shot that ricocheted to shortstop Derek Jeter for a forceout. "My whole career, I have never done that. It affects everyone who's playing the game. And if you're personally involved, it bothers you. It was a relief to find out everything's all right."

"It's a good thing I got my hand up in time or I think it would have hit me square in the nose or knocked my teeth out," said Pettitte, who returned from the hospital with his left thumb swollen twice its regular size, his face cut and bruised but no broken bones. "I remember seeing the ball at the last second. I knew I couldn't get my glove hand up so I tried to cover my face."

The tradeoff, an outing for Irabu, was huge. He allowed eight hits and nine runs (six earned) in 5 1/3 innings and was hooted off the field, tipping his cap in mock appreciation.

"I thought he threw the ball OK," Johnson said generously. "I didn't think he located that well. I see what they say: sometimes you can't tell his split [-fingered pitch] from his fastball. He's in a tough spot. He doesn't know the hitters. He doesn't know what (( they can do."

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