The Yankees beat the Orioles 9-4 last night, but the game wasn't nearly that close, and Mike Mussina did not pick up his 17th win of the season. As late as two outs into the top of the ninth inning, the Yankees' lead was just one run, and they had taken that lead just the inning before.
The Yankees got on the board right away in the top of the first when Bobby Abreu singled home Johnny Damon, who had doubled to start the game (in between, Derek Jeter picked up the 2,500th hit of his career, a flare that dropped in behind second baseman Brian Roberts). The Orioles got that run right back in the bottom of the first when Roberts singled, stole second, and scored on a two-out Aubrey Huff single. Huff singled home another run in the third, and Ramon Hernandez homered off Mussina in the fourth to give the O's a 3-1 lead, but the Yanks tied it back up in the top of the fifth when Robinson Cano and Jose Molina (!) led off with back-to-back home runs off O's starter Radhames Liz.
With one out in the bottom of the sixth, Kevin Millar hit a ground rule double and Luke Scott singled to put runners on the corners. With Mussina at 99 pitches and the score still tied, Joe Girardi came out to the mound for a quick gut check with his starter. Mussina stayed in the game, but Hernandez hit a sac fly to deep left to give the O's a 4-3 lead before Jose Molina threw out Scott stealing to end the inning. After 110 pitches, that was it for Mussina, who would leave the game without pushing his win total past 16. If he stays healthy, Mussina could make seven more starts this season.
Steve Gibralter (1-for-5 in his major league career), had nothing to do with last night's game.
Jose Veras pitched a 1-2-3 seventh, and the Yankees rallied in the eighth against lefty reliever Jamie Walker. Bobby Abreu--who bused the just-defeated Venezuelan little league team to the game and gave them the royal treatment then went 5-for-5 in their presence--led off the inning with a single and moved to third on a double by Alex Rodriguez. After Walker got Jason Giambi to pop out, O's manager Dave Trembley called on rookie righty Kam Mickolio, one of the pitchers acquired in the Erik Bedard deal, to face Xavier Nady. Mickolio's first pitch was way outside and sailed clean past Ramon Hernandez, bringing in Abreu with the tying run. Nady then singled Rodriguez home to give the Yankees the slim 5-4 lead they brought into the top of the ninth.
With two outs and no one out in the ninth, Abreu picked up his fifth hit when a grounder to second base skipped past Roberts. Alex Rodriguez then hit a ground rule double to left that, like his double the previous inning, held Abreu at third base. That brought up Jason Giambi's spot, but in protecting his slim one-run lead in the bottom of the eighth, Joe Girardi had put Cody Ramsom in as a defensive replacement at first base. Facing righty reliever Francisco Cabrera, who had come in to face Rodriguez, Ransom worked the count to 2-1, then blasted a hanging breaking ball into the seats in left for his second home run in as many at-bats as a Yankee, giving the Bombers an 8-4 lead. Xavier Nady then hit Cabrera's next pitch to dead center for a solo shot that made it 9-4 and Mariano Rivera, who had come on in relief of Damaso Marte with two outs in the eighth, worked a 1-2-3 ninth inning on ten pitches to nail down the win.
In other news, Phil Hughes had another rough outing last night as the SWB Yanks clinched a playoff spot in a wild 13-12walkoff win. Hughes' line in his last two starts: 7 IP, 18 H, 13 R, 1 BB, 10 K. Regardless of what Carl Pavano does tomorrow, he was the right choice.