NEW YORK - Orioles manager Mike Hargrove wore a tired and frustrated expression on his face after watching his team get pounded again by the New York Yankees, 11-2, in Game 1 of last night's doubleheader at Yankee Stadium.
There were long stretches of Game 2 that had to leave Hargrove almost partly relieved that the end of his tenure with the Orioles seems to be imminent.
And then, his scrappy little ballclub did something else to make him proud.
Call it an early parting gift, if indeed this is his final weekend with the club.
With two outs in the eighth inning, the Orioles got a two-run triple from Jerry Hairston, and they went on to win it, 3-2, on Robert Machado's run-scoring single in the 10th.
Hargrove couldn't savor it right away. The Yankees put runners at the corners with one out in their half of the 10th, but Orioles closer Jorge Julio struck out Ruben Sierra and Bernie Williams with a pair of nasty sliders to earn his 36th save.
"It's good to see our guys play hard," Hargrove said. "I mean, we got our butts kicked two nights in a row - [Thursday] night in Boston, and the first game here. And to see our guys come back out there for that game and continue to play hard and pitch well, I think that says volumes about the character of this club and the players on this team."
The organization continues to operate in a cone of silence regarding Hargrove's future with the club, so he still isn't 100 percent sure the end will come tomorrow, although all signs are pointing in that direction.
His contract, along with those of all six major league coaches, officially expires Nov. 1.
Two high-ranking club officials predicted yesterday that Hargrove will be dismissed early next week, but both sources left open the possibility that vice presidents Jim Beattie and Mike Flanagan will go to him with an offer to stay.
Beattie and Flanagan have not tipped their hand, not even to close associates.
So for now, Hargrove just waits and wonders.
Getting pounded in yesterday's first game was one thing. On the mound, the Yankees had Andy Pettitte (21-8), who is now 6-0 against the Orioles this season and 20-4 for his career. With limited options, the Orioles countered with struggling left-hander Damian Moss (1-5).
The results were rather predictable. In one stretch of 10 plate appearances for New York, Moss hit three batters and served up four home runs (to Juan Rivera, Alfonso Soriano, Jorge Posada and Aaron Boone).
New York led 7-0 after the third inning and 11-1 after the seventh.
After losing, 14-3, at Boston on Thursday night and watching the Red Sox celebrate the wild-card berth like it was Game 7 of the World Series, the Orioles were a team in search of the 10-run mercy rule.
Game 2 was something entirely different.
Yankees right-hander Jorge De Paula was making his first major-league start, and he was perfect until Jack Cust drew a one-out walk in the sixth inning. De Paula didn't allow his first hit until Larry Bigbie singled with one out in the seventh.
"A lot of us didn't know this kid," Hairston said. "It was different than facing [Roger] Clemens or Pettitte because we've faced them before. We know their out pitches, and we know how they're trying to pitch to us."
Orioles starter Rodrigo Lopez had the luxury of facing a Yankees starting lineup that included just one player who was on their Opening Day 25-man roster - designated hitter Jason Giambi.
New York sent this vaunted trio to the plate to open the first inning: Erick Almonte, Luis Sojo and Ruben Sierra. Yet by the time that group finished, New York led 2-0, as Almonte singled and Sierra hit an opposite-field, two-run homer to left.
But Lopez settled down and retired 17 consecutive batters, keeping the game close. Finally, with two outs in the eighth, the Orioles had an awakening.
Cust singled off Yankees reliever Gabe White, and then Pedro Swann walked against Catonsville native Jeff Nelson. That brought Hairston to the plate, and he lined a pitch from Nelson for a triple into the right-center-field gap, scoring both runners.
When the throw back to the infield got away from the cutoff man, Orioles third base coach Tom Trebelhorn sent Hairston home, but first baseman Fernando Seguignol tossed it to catcher Michel Hernandez in plenty of time to tag Hairston.
Hairston limped out of the trainer's room about 30 minutes after the game, saying he might have to have his right foot amputated. He has been playing with a bone bruise in the foot, and he was obviously in pain as he lumbered home.
"My foot flared up [Thursday] night really bad, and the plane ride didn't help," he said. "It's going to rain in a couple hours; I'm just letting you know.
"It's killing me."
When asked how this team of beleaguered souls managed such a comeback last night, Hairston said, "We play hard, one through nine, all of us do. We don't give up. Sometimes it doesn't work for us, and sometimes it does."