Yanks leave O's all wet, 12-9

New York's bats wake up after rain delay to extend Orioles' skid to 6 games

Yankees score 4 in 5th, 5 in 7th

May 27, 2004|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

It all crystallized for the Orioles last night at about 11, after the 65-minute rain delay, after the game's first series of seismic momentum shifts.

It would be another hour before the New York Yankees put the finishing touches on a 12-9 victory, and Camden Yards was swaying beneath the emotions of a bipartisan crowd of 37,610.

Both managers were desperate for something sturdy to latch onto, someone who could bring order to the chaos.

The Yankees had scored seven unanswered runs to take the lead, only to see the Orioles go back in front with their biggest inning in six weeks.

It was now the seventh, and the Orioles had just gone ahead by two runs. They needed nine outs from their bullpen to seal the victory.

Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli, a man who has never looked so desperate for a reliable setup man, turned to two of the steadiest relievers he has, and moments later, the Yankees had regained the lead against Buddy Groom and B.J. Ryan.

The Orioles were left to pick up the pieces after their sixth straight loss.

"When you score nine runs, you expect to win," Mazzilli said. "Our bullpen kept us in a lot of games in the early part of the season and just didn't do it tonight."

Having already used Rodrigo Lopez (five innings, five runs) to start the game, and Darwin Cubillan (one inning, two runs) in relief, Mazzilli had limited right-handed options remaining in his bullpen to protect the 9-7 lead.

Mike DeJean was sitting out there with his 9.19 ERA, and next to him sat Denny Bautista, whose only major league appearances had come Tuesday.

"You've got to go with what you have," Mazzilli said. "It's a little frustrating, but you've got to stay positive. ... They've been there before, and you don't want to give up on them."

So Mazzilli turned to Groom, who had quietly posted a 2.19 ERA in 13 appearances. The plan, Mazzilli said, was to have Groom get through the seventh, Ryan get through the eighth and use closer Jorge Julio for the ninth.

But one batter later, it was 9-8, as the left-handed hitting Hideki Matsui drilled his seventh homer of the season into the right-field seats. Ruben Sierra followed with a single to center, and Mazzilli quickly tried to rectify the situation by summoning Ryan.

The Orioles have come to view Ryan as the closest thing they have to a set-up specialist this year, but here, he needed six outs to get the game to the ninth for Julio.

"I'm just thinking one out at a time," Ryan said.

Against the Yankees, that's always daunting, and Ryan, who owned a 1.57 ERA before the game, couldn't stop their newfound momentum. After a chopper by Tony Clark moved Sierra into scoring position, Enrique Wilson tied the game with a run-scoring single through the hole between shortstop and third.

Wilson advanced to second on Larry Bigbie's throw to home plate, and then Bernie Williams, pinch hitting for Kenny Lofton, hit a run-scoring single up the middle for a 10-9 lead.

New York wasn't done. Derek Jeter hit a little dinker over the top of first baseman Rafael Palmeiro's head for a double, Ryan walked Alex Rodriguez intentionally to load the bases, and Gary Sheffield hit a two-run single through the same hole Wilson had found.

Sheffield, who hit a three-run homer off Lopez to put the Yankees in front in the fifth inning, finished the game with four hits and six RBIs.

"They got four hits through the infield," Ryan said. "If that's the worst thing that can happen, it could have been three balls to [shortstop Miguel] Tejada, case closed, no questions asked. ... I felt good tonight. I had a good slider, good fastball, both sides of the plate. They just hit it."

The game was a 3-hour, 48-minute marathon that probably reopened the debate over whether the Orioles should use Lopez as a starter or a reliever.

For the second straight start, he seemed to hit a wall.

The Orioles had a 3-1 lead entering the fifth inning, but the Yankees trimmed the margin to one before the rains came. Two batters after play resumed, Sheffield hit his fourth homer of the season, giving New York its first lead.

Clearly, the rain didn't help, but in his two starts, Lopez is 0-1 with a 10.24 ERA.

In 12 relief appearances, he was 3-1 with a 0.33 ERA, making him the top reliever in the American League.

"It hasn't worked out for me yet," Lopez said of his starting role. "But hopefully it will work."

Asked if he would put Lopez back in the bullpen if the team could find another reliable starter, Mazzilli said, "I can't answer that."

Yankees starter Mike Mussina didn't fare any better. Making his 12th start against his former team, Mussina allowed five runs on six hits in 5 1/3 innings.

He turned a 7-3 lead over to the vaunted Yankees bullpen with one out in the sixth inning, when the Orioles had their offensive awakening.

B.J. Surhoff hit a three-run homer, and the Orioles eventually made it a six-run inning, their biggest since they scored six in the second at Toronto on April 16 in an 11-2 victory.

"No matter when you score runs, the key is to shut them down the next inning," Mazzilli said. "And we just didn't do it."

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