O's give in to Yanks, Johnson

Lawton's 2-run HR enough to top overmatched lineup

Yankees 2 Orioles 1

September 22, 2005|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,Sun reporter

NEW YORK -- The baseball gods must have a vendetta against the Orioles. Or at the very least, a strange sense of humor.

They take away an All-Star second baseman, heaping a little more misery on a team that can barely stand up under the weight, and force its interim manager to piece together a lineup that won't completely fold against five-time Cy Young Award winner Randy Johnson.

Maybe the Orioles will be treated more fairly in their next life.

Matt Lawton hit a two-run homer off Rodrigo Lopez in the second inning to give the New York Yankees an early lead, and Johnson made it seem insurmountable for a while by bullying an undermanned opponent in a 2-1 victory before 50,382 at Yankee Stadium.

Johnson retired the first 11 batters before walking Miguel Tejada, and he didn't allow a hit until the fifth. Bernie Castro reached on an infield single with one out in the sixth and scored on Melvin Mora's double, but the tying run was stranded at third base when Alex Rodriguez made a lunging stop and threw out Javy Lopez.

Mariano Rivera nailed Mora on the left arm to begin the ninth and Lopez singled with one out, but the Yankees held on and moved into first place in the American League East.

"We did everything we possibly could to keep it to two [runs] and try to punch one or two more across," interim manager Sam Perlozzo said. "We got ourselves in position but just couldn't do it."

A victory is needed tonight for the Orioles (70-81) to avoid a four-game sweep before beginning their final homestand. One more defeat, and they'll finish with a losing record for the eighth consecutive season.

The Orioles played their first game without Brian Roberts since he suffered a detached tendon and torn ligament in his left elbow during Tuesday night's collision with Bubba Crosby. The team remained hopeful that he would be ready for Opening Day 2006 after undergoing surgery within the next two weeks, but Perlozzo must cope with the loss of another starter.

"I didn't think we were flat at all," he said. "I thought we were pretty good. They were wanting to get it done."

Perlozzo called upon Castro, a September call-up, as Roberts' replacement at second and atop the order. David Newhan was the only left-handed hitter, and he previously didn't have an at-bat against Johnson in his career.

The Yankees used Gary Sheffield as their designated hitter. The Orioles countered with Alejandro Freire, who batted fifth and has one home run and four RBIs this season. Eric Byrnes, in a 1-for-33 slump, batted sixth.

New York's first baseman, Jason Giambi, had 29 more homers and 63 more RBIs than Orioles first baseman Chris Gomez.

It didn't seem fair.

"I thought most of the guys battled well," Perlozzo said. "We had to put Newhan in there to be kind of like the sacrificial lamb, and he had some very good at-bats. He didn't get a hit but he hung in there and wasn't intimidated. We just need a couple guys to get hot."

Lawton hit his second homer since joining the Yankees, and it came after a one-out single by Hideki Matsui. Lopez (14-11) knew the ball was gone from the moment Lawton made contact, watching its flight only in hopes that a sudden gust of wind might redirect it.

"I was just trying to throw a strike off-speed and he took advantage," said Lopez, who went 6 1/3 innings. "I knew it was going to be a pretty tough game. Against the Yankees, you're not allowed to make too many mistakes."

As Lawton rounded the bases, Lopez pushed his cap to the back of his head, took a few deep breaths and wiped away the sweat.

He wasn't the only one perspiring.

Byrnes reached on a questionable error with one out in the fifth, beating a high throw from Derek Jeter after the Yankees' shortstop made a diving stop. Gomez removed any controversy over the official scorer's decision by grounding a single into right field to end Johnson's no-hit bid.

With his fastball routinely at 96 mph, Johnson (15-8) escaped the jam by getting Luis Matos to bounce into a double play.

"He's been good all his life and he just dealt," said Freire, who went 0-for-3 and struck out twice. "He pitched kind of backward. He'd throw his slider and then his fastball. And he threw strikes."

roch.kubatko@baltsun.com

Orioles@Yankees

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Starters: Orioles' Bruce Chen (12-9, 3.51) vs. Yankees' Mike Mussina (12-8, 4.34)

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