O's put rally caps back on, top Yanks

Young players pace 1st back-to-back wins in over a month, 7-6

September 22, 2001|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

On a night of observance and remembrance, the Orioles were teased by the future before being tormented and finally - incredibly - exonerated by the present.

After watching closer Willis Roberts fumble their hard-won lead to the New York Yankees in the top of the inning, the Orioles rallied past Mariano Rivera with a two-run response in the bottom of the ninth. Jerry Hairston's one-out, two-run single off the glove of first baseman Tino Martinez turned a 6-5 deficit into a 7-6 win before a Camden Yards crowd of 47,099.

"Amazing," Hairston concluded.

The game offered the true meaning of September to a rebuilding franchise. The Orioles (57-89) celebrated a win built largely on a seven-inning start by rookie Rick Bauer, two runs by rookie center fielder Willie Harris and a significant ninth-inning sacrifice by rookie catcher Geronimo Gil.

"Games like tonight do wonders for the development of your ballclub and your young talent because the Yankees are the best there are," manager Mike Hargrove said. "Anytime people go out and compete with them, and make them work to beat you, it does wonders for your confidence."

The win gave the Orioles consecutive victories for the first time since Aug. 14-15 and lifted them to 3-13 this season against the three-time world champions. None has been more compelling.

Making his third major-league start, Bauer may have shared the night's most compelling performance with right fielder Luis Matos, who doubled and homered in his first two at-bats against Yankees starter Mike Mussina.

Last night marked the first game at Camden Yards since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. A moving pre-game ceremony included members of various fire and rescue teams as well as third baseman Cal Ripken serving as flag-bearer along the right-field line. A somber beginning gave way to a sense of anticipation as the Orioles constructed a 5-1 lead.

It very nearly ended in disappointment as three Yankees home runs accounted for five runs in the last three innings.

Second baseman Alfonso Soriano pulled the Yankees within 5-3 when he homered against Bauer in the seventh inning. Roberts (8-9) followed John Wasdin's eighth inning by allowing a leadoff home run to Martinez. Three hitters later, with a runner at first, Scott Brosius ripped the inning's second homer for a 6-5 lead.

Tony Batista and Brady Anderson replied with consecutive singles to lead off the home ninth. Gil laid down a perfect sacrifice to advance Anderson to second base with the winning run.

Hairston, fighting an 11-for-62 funk in his past 19 games, provided his second ninth-inning game-winning hit when he drove Rivera's fastball between Martinez and the first-base line. As the ball trickled into shallow right field, Eddie Murray tried to wave Anderson home from the first base coach's box. A scrum greeted Anderson when he beat the relay. Hargrove, who had seen his team dominated during a 3-18 dive, walked behind home plate, found a familiar face in the stands and quietly pumped a fist.

"Our talent level is not what the Yankees' is, mainly because of the young people we're playing and the inexperience we have," Hargrove said. "That doesn't mean we don't have a chance to get there."

Matos has returned this September a different player than the one sidelined by a dislocated shoulder during spring training. His broader, more confident bearing hints at a lasting change.

"It is more mental than anything," Matos said. "Last year it was a constant adjustment, it seemed. This year I feel like I know what's going on."

Matos consistently smashed the ball during the three-game series in Toronto and last night twice beat Mussina.

Mussina had not allowed an earned run in three of his past four starts and entered last night riding a string of 25 consecutive scoreless innings that had dropped his ERA to 3.29. But Bauer, who has faced the Seattle Mariners and the Yankees in his three major-league starts, contained the three-time world champions on four hits through six innings, retiring nine straight and 17 of 18 in one stretch, before surrending a two-run homer to Soriano in the seventh.

"He has good stuff and he throws strikes with it," Hargrove said. "He's not afraid. That's key why he's been able to pitch effectively up here."

"I didn't even know I was going against him until this morning when I read the paper. I was like, `Wow, Mike Mussina,' " Bauer said. "It was kind of weird because I've been watching him ever since I've been in the organization."

Batista tied the game in the second inning and broke Mussina's 26-inning tear with a one-out single to score Chris Richard.

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