As he ran toward first base and watched his line drive disappear into the right-center-field seats for a three-run homer, Orioles first baseman Aubrey Huff gave an uncharacteristic fist pump and glared in the direction of New York Yankees starter Joba Chamberlain.
When Huff crossed home plate, he did it again, this fist pump more exaggerated than the first. Huff explained later that he was just having some fun with Chamberlain, who hasn't endeared himself to the Orioles with his displays of emotion after strikeouts.
What could have been a fun and celebratory day for the Orioles, and a series victory over the hated Yankees, instead morphed into another frustrating loss. At the plate only because two infield singles prolonged the seventh inning, Johnny Damon drove Jim Johnson's full-count fastball into the right-field bleachers, the three-run blast propelling the Yankees to a 5-3 victory over the Orioles in front of an announced 33,290 at sun-splashed Camden Yards.
"There are a lot of good hitters in the big leagues," said Johnson, who has surrendered two home runs after not giving up one all last season. "If you catch a lot of plate, that's going to happen."
It couldn't have happened at a worse time for the Orioles, who wasted another strong outing by Koji Uehara (one run on Mark Teixeira's first-inning homer over six innings) and witnessed another early lead go by the wayside amid a slew of missed opportunities.
The Orioles (13-19) had 12 base runners in six innings against Chamberlain but couldn't score after Huff's first-inning homer. They hit into two double plays in the game, were thrown out twice on the base paths and went 1-for-5 with runners in scoring position.
Meanwhile, the Yankees, held down by Uehara, cut the Orioles' lead to one run on Robinson Cano's solo homer off Jamie Walker in the seventh. Later in the inning, catcher Francisco Cervelli reached on a two-out infield single that second baseman Brian Roberts appeared to take a bad approach to, and Derek Jeter got on by hitting a tapper that left third baseman Melvin Mora with no play. Damon got ahead in the count before turning on Johnson's 96-mph fastball for his ninth homer.
"Who would have thought it would come down to a couple infield hits at the end, the way the ball has been flying around here, but that's really what it came down to,"Orioles manager Dave Trembley said.
Uehara has turned in five straight quality starts, allowing 11 earned runs, walking just two batters and striking out 29 during that span. However, he's 0-3 with two no-decisions in those starts.
"It's all about the team," Uehara said through translator Jiwon Bang. "Whether I win or lose doesn't matter as long as the team wins."
The same goes for Huff, who nonetheless was surrounded by reporters after the game to discuss his rare outburst after the home run.
"I always told the guys that if I get him, I'm going to give him a nice fist pump," said Huff, who faced Chamberlain in his next two at-bats with men on base. "For me, it wasn't really showing anybody up. I was just trying to have some fun with it. If he's going to do that all the time, he's got to understand that guys are going to be gunning for him. If you want to do that stuff, you got to expect the hitters to get you, too."
Chamberlain said he didn't see Huff's actions, but did add: "He did what he was supposed to do with the pitch. He hit a home run. If he wants to do a back flip, he can do a back flip."
He also said, "This won't be the last time I face him." The Orioles and Yankees start another series in nine days.