O's are on losing end of another season

2 Posada homers help Yanks finish sweep for 82nd loss, assuring O's won't see .500

Yankees 7, Orioles 6

September 23, 2005|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,Sun reporter

New York -- Already forced to accept that they no longer were pennant contenders, the Orioles had to digest another nugget last night.

They will end the season with a losing record. Again.

Catcher Jorge Posada homered twice off Orioles left-hander Bruce Chen, including a three- run shot in the sixth inning, and the New York Yankees completed their four-game sweep with a 7-6 victory at Yankee Stadium.

Gary Sheffield added a bases- empty homer off reliever Aaron Rakers in the seventh, as the Yankees won for the 10th time in 11 games. The Orioles were down 7-1 in the eighth before scoring four runs off reliever Al Leiter. Melvin Mora added a two-out home run in the ninth off Tom Gordon.

Before the season began, the Orioles (70-82) were among five teams to post losing records seven years in a row. Tampa Bay, Detroit and Pittsburgh have kept their dubious streaks alive, while Milwaukee is 75-77.

None of them spent 62 straight days in first place, as the Orioles did this season.

"It's hard to fathom." interim manager Sam Perlozzo said. 'Now I look back and say, "I don't know how this happened." But honestly, there's not a whole lot else we can do about that. It's water under the bridge. Whether we"re in third or fifth, or if we have 81 or 82 wins, it doesn't matter right now.

"For me, I'm focused on playing good baseball. We"ve got some kids here, some pitchers and other things that need to be decided and I'm trying to sort that out so this won't happen next year or any other year. "What the heck happened and how am I going to stop this from happening again next year?" That's what I'm looking to do."

Perlozzo isn't looking for the Orioles to be spoilers with seven games remaining against the Yankees and Boston Red Sox. They haven't done a good job of it so far anyway, losing 22 of 32 games.

"I'm not worrying about spoiling anything. I'm just worrying about being respectable and having enough pride to go out and play our best and not lay down." he said. "We want to win for us. I don't want to win for the Boston Red Sox or anybody else. I want to win for the Baltimore Orioles.

"We know it's tough to beat these guys. We're a little out-manned. We know that. But we want to be competitive and at least say we're doing our part to try to beat these guys. I want to be able to go in there and say, "We gave it our best, gentlemen. Nobody should hang their head or feel bad because we played as good as we could play."'

Before last night, Chen (12-10) hadn't allowed more than three earned runs in a start since July 27. He had permitted more than two only once in that span.

Chen was 5-3 with a 1.84 ERA in nine starts since the beginning of August, the third-best ERA in the majors behind Florida's Dontrelle Willis (1.34) and Minnesota's Johan Santana (1.63).

"He's got, like, five pitches and he's thrown them for strikes and gotten ahead of hitters." Perlozzo said. "He usually keeps the ball down, and when he does that, he can pitch."

And when it's elevated, Posada can hammer it. His leadoff shot in the fifth tied the game, 1-1, and he followed Hideki Matsui's run-scoring single in the sixth by reaching the third deck in left field to give the Yankees a 5-1 lead.

Chen escaped a big jam in the first and was cruising until the middle innings.

Derek Jeter reached on an infield hit and took third base when Mora fielded Robinson Cano's sacrifice bunt and fired to first - a good play if second baseman Bernie Castro had been covering the bag. Castro was charged with the error, and the Yankees had runners on the corners with no outs.

Chen struck out Alex Rodriguez, retired Sheffield on a pop-up and struck out Matsui, disappointing a crowd of 52,368.

Jeter's single, on a ball that Mora charged but couldn't field cleanly, was the Yankees' only hit until Posada homered for the first time.

An error by Jeter in the third inning led to an unearned run off former Oriole Mike Mussina (13-8), who was making his first start since Aug. 29 because of an inflamed right elbow.

Luis Matos began the inning with a single and moved up when Jeter botched a ground ball that should have produced a double play. Castro slapped a single into left field for his fifth RBI of the season.

Note Brian Roberts returned to Baltimore yesterday and received treatment on his left elbow. Roberts tore a ligament and will undergo surgery within the next two weeks to reattach a tendon to the bone. He'll be examined again today by team physician Dr. Andrew Cosgarea. Perlozzo wasn't sure if Roberts would be in the clubhouse to greet his teammates. 'Knowing Brian, I'd like to think he'll come in." Perlozzo said. Roberts didn't return calls to The Sun yesterday.

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