Roberts' HR tops Yanks

His 5th homer in 11 games caps 5-run rally as O's sink Yankees again, 7-6

Win is 4th in 5 games vs. N.Y.

Roberts ties career high

Ryan escapes jams in 8th, 9th after early 6-2 deficit

April 17, 2005|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,SUN STAFF

With one mighty swing, second baseman Brian Roberts put another dent in the New York Yankees' dominance over his team, and may have offered more evidence that the Orioles have separated themselves from their recent past.

Roberts' majestic three-run homer off Yankees reliever Tom Gordon landed in the flag court in right field, and capped a five-run seventh inning in which the Orioles erased a four-run deficit. Closer B.J. Ryan then came on and shrugged off some tenuous moments to pick up his second save as the Orioles beat the Yankees, 7-6, yesterday before 48,598 at Oriole Park.

Ryan struck out Yankees slugger Hideki Matsui with the bases loaded to end the eighth, and then got pinch hitter John Flaherty, with two men on, on a weak liner for the final out, giving the Orioles their fourth win in five games against their nemesis this season.

With the win, the Orioles (7-4) temporarily pulled into a tie for first place in the American League East, before Toronto beat Texas.

"Essentially, it's just one win, but in order to get to where we want to be, we have to beat the Yankees and the Red Sox," Roberts said. "It boils down to that basically, so for us to start out against them this way, it's great. I think it does a lot for our psyche and our confidence for sure."

The Orioles will send Daniel Cabrera to the mound this afternoon against Kevin Brown looking for the series sweep over the Yankees (4-7). They have that opportunity not just because of the heroics of Roberts, but because of their resiliency.

A wild pitch and two fielding miscues led to two of the Yankees' three runs in the seventh, allowing the visitors to take a 6-2 lead. But a single by Javy Lopez, which scored Sammy Sosa, and two-out hits by Jay Gibbons and Luis Matos set the stage for Roberts.

Gordon threw a 2-1 cutter and Roberts belted it 357 feet, eclipsing last year's home run total of four and tying his career high with his fifth homer.

"I knew I hit it pretty good," said Roberts, who went 2-for-3 to lift his league-leading average to .444 and extended his career-long hitting streak to 16 games dating back to last season. "I knew pretty much when it left the bat, but to battle back against that team, it's something we haven't done in past years. To get that done today, that's big for us."

Asked if this was one of his most exhilarating victories as Orioles manager, Lee Mazzilli said, "I don't know, but it was exciting as hell, I can tell you that.

"When you look across the field at that team and you give them a couple of breaks, and you stay in there, that tells you something. It tells me something about this team that we came back."

The Orioles lost the first seven meetings and went 5-14 against the Yankees last season. They have not won a season series against New York since 1997, and it appeared they were headed for more disappointment yesterday.

The team's current ace, Rodrigo Lopez, didn't have his best stuff in a duel with the Orioles' former ace (Mike Mussina), giving up a two-run home run in the first inning to Gary Sheffield. The 416-foot blast represented more runs than Lopez had given up in his first two starts combined.

But he battled, striking out seven, and ultimately pitched into the seventh inning when things started to unravel. After consecutive doubles by Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez plated the Yankees' fourth run, Lopez was removed in favor of left-hander Steve Kline.

Kline, pitching in his first home game since comments in a St. Louis newspaper suggested he regretted signing with the Orioles, again was at the center of a whirlwind of activity.

He intentionally walked Sheffield and threw a wild pitch that put men on second and third with one out. Matsui hit a ground ball to a pulled-in Roberts, who couldn't get the ball out of his glove and threw late to home.

Then, Kline got Ruben Sierra to hit what appeared to be a double-play ball, but shortstop Miguel Tejada made an errant throw to second, allowing another run to score. Kline, who was greeted by only a smattering of boos, then struck out Tino Martinez and Jorge Posada to end the inning.

"I was just happy that the crowd treated me decent," said Kline (2-1), who wound up with the win. "I was expecting to have things thrown at me."

After Roberts' homer gave the Orioles the 7-6 lead, Kline and Todd Williams each got an out in the eighth, but the bases were loaded after Mazzilli ordered an intentional walk of Sheffield and then summoned Ryan.

The Orioles closer threw two straight fastballs by Matsui, then after three consecutive balls, blew another fastball by the Yankees' cleanup hitter.

"[Catcher Javy Lopez] called [a fastball] with conviction so I threw it with conviction, and I got him that time," said Ryan, who allowed a home run to Matsui on a fastball last week.

Ryan then worked his way out of more trouble in the ninth, pumping his fist emphatically after getting Flaherty to line out to Roberts to end the game.

"In the past, the game would have been over [after the mistakes in the seventh inning]," Gibbons said. "It shows a lot about our teammates in this clubhouse."

Especially Roberts.

"I used to applaud him for hitting a homer in batting practice and that was in spring training three weeks ago," Gibbons said. "He's incredible. We knew if we got Brian up there, he was going to make something happen."

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