Yanks edge Orioles in ninth, 3-2 Poor execution at bat moves up O's agony in 9th loss in 10 games

Benitez watches Orosco fall

N.Y. sets 1st-half mark as Mussina bid wasted

July 04, 1998|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

NEW YORK -- If this had happened on Lexington Avenue it would have been called loitering.

Since it took place inside Yankee Stadium, the Orioles could only be charged with another baffling loss.

A three-inning conspiracy of missed chances, brutal execution, mental lapses and debatable tactics culminated in the ninth inning last night when third baseman Scott Brosius lined a one-out opposite-field single off Jesse Orosco to give the New York Yankees a 3-2 decision before 43,328. The wrenching loss was the Orioles' ninth in 10 games and dumped them 24 1/2 games off the American League East lead. The Orioles fell to 0-6 in New York this season.

"We didn't execute and they got it done," said manager Ray Miller.

They also got a record. In improving to 59-20, the Yankees broke the 1970 Cincinnati Reds' mark for the most wins in the first half of a season since the inception of the 162-game schedule in 1961.

Once again a strong start by Mike Mussina went for nothing. More unusual was Miller's willingness to accept a poor matchup with Armando Benitez standing ready in the bullpen.

The Yankees won with a hit batter, an infield single, a steal of third and the right-handed Brosius' one-out single off lefty Orosco.

The Yankees' rally rewarded starter Andy Pettitte (10-5) for a complete-game four-hitter marred only by six walks. The Orioles played a slow-thinking and hamfisted game in which a simple sacrifice and avoiding a pickoff proved too difficult.

In part, that's why the Yankees are 31-6 in Yankee Stadium while the Orioles have now lost eight straight road games. Pettitte threw a career-high 143 pitches as Yankees manager Joe Torre had only two available relievers following Thursday's 11-inning loss.

Afterward, Pettitte couldn't remember the last time he had made that many pitches.

"Maybe in high school," he said.

Pettitte has made a career of stuffing the Orioles. He has never lost in six decisions at Camden Yards and is 9-1 in 13 career starts against them, 3-0 this year.

Miller stayed with Orosco for the entire inning even after Chad Curtis' one-out stolen base created a first-and-third situation that cried for a strikeout. Miller later called the inning "a second-guesser's delight."

"There were some interesting things that didn't happen," said Mussina, who watched the ninth-inning fold from the clubhouse. "Extrapolate from there."

Miller said he would have inserted Benitez had Orosco not hit pinch hitter Tim Raines to lead off the inning. "Then it gets kind of touchy from there," he said.

Curtis then bounced to shortstop Mike Bordick, who booted the one-hop grounder for what was generously scored an infield hit. Following a botched sacrifice, Curtis stole third on the second pitch to Brosius. Miller might have removed Orosco for Benitez in an attempt to get a strikeout. Miller later second-guessed himself, conceding bringing on Benitez "was probably the right thing to do."

Miller theorized that vs. Benitez the Yankees would have easily stolen second base, necessitating an intentional walk of probable pinch hitter Jorge Posada, bringing a bases-loaded jam to Derek Jeter.

Miller denied that Benitez's role in a May 19 brawl here factored in his decision to stay with Orosco (1-1). Upset by Miller's tactics, Benitez sought a post-game meeting with the manager. Bullpen coach Elrod Hendricks accompanied the closer into the manager's office. When Benitez emerged, he seemed satisfied with the explanation.

"I was ready. I wasn't scared," Benitez explained when asked whether he expected to enter the ninth inning at some point.

The Yankees threatened to inflict irrevocable damage on a slow-starting Mussina in the first inning after Jeter and Luis Sojo led off with back-to-back singles.

Paul O'Neill then ripped a drive to left field that B. J. Surhoff ran down on the warning track for a sacrifice fly. Mussina escaped trailing only 1-0 when he got a fly ball and a strikeout. The opportunity was the Yankees' best of the night against him as Mussina settled down to retire 10 of 11 hitters.

Pettitte didn't allow a base runner for the first two innings. The bottom of the order then reached him for two runs in the third. No. 7 hitter Joe Carter led off with a single and took third on Chris Hoiles' double. Frequently the Orioles have failed to fully exploit such opportunities. Bordick tied the game with a sacrifice fly driven to the left-field wall. The drive turned Ricky Ledee around, allowing Hoiles to also tag.

With two outs, Surhoff gave the Orioles a 2-1 lead by pulling a Pettitte pitch just inside the right-field foul line for an RBI double.

The game then reverted to its billing, a showdown of aces. Pettitte (.674) and Mussina (.673) entered the game ranked first and second, respectively, in winning percentage among active pitchers with 50 or more decisions.

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