The Yankees got back at the Orioles today, winning 8-5, but it wasn't Randy Johnson that allowed the Yanks and their fans to forget about last night's drubbing. Rather it was a five-run seventh inning at the expense of the Oriole bullpen that saved Johnson from what would have been his first loss as a Yankee.
Johnson pitched well, throwing 66 of 100 pitches for strikes, but couldn't get the job done in the fourth inning. With the score even at 1-1, Javy Lopez lead off the fourth with a double deep in the gap in left that fell in front of the 399 foot sign, a shot that likely would have been a homer in Camden Yards. B.J. Surhoff--the lone lefty in an Oriole lineup that included Lopez at DH, Geronimo Gil behind the plate, and Chris Gomez at first--followed with a single to put runners at the corners. Frustrated, Johnson then started Luis Matos off with a wicked slider that broke under the strike zone and hit the Baltimore centerfielder in the left foot. Matos crumbled to his knees in pain. For a second I thought his foot had been broken, but he turned out to be fine and trotted to first to load the bases. Johnson then fell behind Gomez 3-0 on a couple of borderline pitches on the outside corner (his second pitch looked like a clear strike to me) before walking him on five pitches, forcing Lopez home. 2-1 O's. Gil followed with a single to plate Surhoff and keep the bases loaded. 3-1 O's still no outs.
Then Randy got serious. He struckout Brian Roberts, who fouled off three pitches before going down. Then he struckout Melvin Mora on three pitches. All that stood between him and escape was Miguel Tejada, but Tejada, in a great piece of hitting, cracked Johnson's first pitch the other way for a clean single to right, driving home Matos and Gomez. Finally Sammy Sosa flew out to Sheffield to end the inning. 5-1 Orioles.
The Yanks made it 5-2 on Jason Giambi's first homer of the year in the bottom of the inning. Then in the fifth, with Rey Sanchez (Sanchez started in place of the lefty Womack against the lefty Chen. Ruben Sierra started for Tino at DH with Giambi moving to first where he committed a second-inning error that lead to the first Baltimore run. So two of the three expendable Yankee lefties rode pine today, but Andy Phillips still didn't get in the game. Grrr) Sorry where was I? Oh yes, in the fifth with Sanchez on second and Alex Rodriguez on first, Sheffield hit into a would-be double play ball, but Rodriguez (who was 3 for 5 on the day) slid hard into second, jarring the ball loose from Brian Roberts making the pivot, accidentally bloodying the second baseman's nose, allowing Sanchez to score, cutting the Oriole lead to 5-3.
Then came the bottom of the seventh. With Rafael Palmeiro in for Gomez at first, Steve Reed took the ball from Chen and struckout Bernie Williams on a full count to start the inning. Joe Torre then sent Womack up to pinch hit for Sanchez against the righty submariner Reed. Womack took strike one, fouled off strike two, then alternated ball, foul, ball, foul, ball to run the count full before, I kid you not, taking ball four. Two walks in his first 16 Yankee at-bats. Outstanding! Derek Jeter followed with a picture perfect single up the middle, putting the tying runs on first and second. Alex Rodriguez then ran the count to 2-2, but flied out to center moving Womack to third. With the tying runs on the corners and two out, Gary Sheffield stepped up and hit Reed's first pitch into left for an RBI single. Sheffield is just 4 for 21 on the season, but he has 6 RBIs in five games and remains on the short list of Yankees I want up in that situation (basically MVPatsui, Sheffield and Jeter).
At that point Lee Mazzilli switched Steves, bringing in Steve Kline to pitch to Hideki Matsui. After two balls, Matsui fouled off Kline's third pitch and missed his fourth to run the count even. He then put a defensive slashing swing on a low pitch from Kline, flaring it out behind third base where Miguel Tejada chased it while being blinded by the late afternoon sun. The ball fell no more than a foot away from Tejada's outstretched glove and no more than two feet fair, then bounced into the stands for an RBI ground rule double. Tie game, men on second and third. Ruben Sierra then stepped up and ended an 0-for-3 day with a three-run home run on the first pitch he saw to put the Yankees ahead by the game's final score of 8-5. The Yanks actually kept going, with Posada walking on five pitches and Jason Giambi reaching second on a hot shot up the first base line that scooted under Palmeiro's glove, but both runners were stranded when Bernie, who did finally get his first hit of the season with a single to center in the third, popped out to end the inning.
Sturtze, Gordon and Rivera combined to shutout the Orioles over the game's final three innings. Sturtze threw better than his last outing (68 percent strikes, two Ks), despite a pair of singles and a wild pitch. Gordon went 1-2-3 in the eighth on eight pitches, seven strikes (tasty). Rivera still wasn't locating his pitches properly and gave up a lead-off double to the hot-hitting Brian Roberts, but settled down well enough to record three straight outs after that, the last a strikeout of Sammy Sosa.
Carl Pavano makes his second Yankee start tomorrow against the Orioles' proper ace, Rodrigo Lopez, who pitched like one against the A's on Opening Day. Should be a fine ballgame, and I'll be in the bleachers on what promises to be yet another gorgeous day for baseball in the Bronx.