It warn’t purty, but a win am a win. The Yankees survived an awful showing from their middle relief corps by crushing Baltimore’s relievers as the Yanks won their third straight. Baltimore jumped to an early 3-0 lead off of Mike Mussina, and the Yanks left the bases loaded in the first and runners on the corners in the third. Gary Sheffield walked in his first at bat and was robbed of two RBI in the third when Luis Matos made a fine running catch to end the inning. Sheff must have been wondering what he had to do to catch a break.
With the score 3-1 in the fifth, Derek Jeter collected his second hit of the night, a single to left, which scored Kenny Lofton. Before Rodrigo Lopez could throw a pitch to Alex Rodriguez the game was delayed for an hour and five minutes by more rain. When play resumed, Lopez was still pitching, though he hadn’t been especially sharp. But as the YES announcers noted, Lee Maz doesn’t exactly have sterling options in his bullpen. Rodriguez legged out an infield hit and then Gary Sheffield popped a hanging curve–or was it a slider?–deep into the left field seats. Tony Clark added a solo dinger in the sixth, Sheffield singled home Lofton, and the Yanks had a comfortable 7-3 lead.
But it didn’t last as Mussina, Paul Quantrill, Gabe White (Only Build 4 Cuban Linx himself), and everybody’s all American punching bag, Taynon Sturtze, coughed up the lead. Baltimore pounded Yankee pitching for seven hits and six runs in the inning and when it was all over led, 9-7. The less said about this ugly turn of events, the better.
Especially considering that the O’s weren’t out in front for long. In the seventh, southpaw Buddy Groom quickly got ahead of Godziller Matsui but then left a fastball up in the zone which was crushed into the right field bleachers for a homer. Yanks down by one. Ruben Sierra singled, and B.J. Ryan replaced Groom. After Tony Clark grounded out, Enrique Wilson singled home Sierra, and then Bernie Williams–pinch-hitting for Lofton–singled home Wilson to give the Yanks the lead for good. Derek Jeter fought off a nasty slider that was in on his hands, and blooped a lucky-ass double down the first base line. It was the cheap, fortunate kind of hit that Jeter has been searching for. Bernie advanced to third and Rodriguez was intentionally walked to load the bases. Sheffield fell behind in the count but then laced a single to right. Williams and Jeter scored, and Sheffield had his sixth RBI of the night. (Sheffield actually collected another hit–a single to center in the ninth–to cap off his most productive game in pinstripes.)
The score remained the same as Flash Gordon and Mariano Rivera effectively shut the Orioles down over the final three innings:
“It seemed like a hundred years before we got to them tonight, and it was almost tomorrow,” Manager Joe Torre said.
The game ended at the stroke of midnight.
Jose Contreras will replace Kevin Brown tonight. Brown left the team to deal with some personal issues and will start against the D-Rays on Saturday. Contreras will face Sidney Ponson this evening.