Much like they did against in Tampa two weeks ago, the Yankees arrived in Baltimore last night and delivered a statement: they’re not fooling around this time. On a night when the Indians (due to the schedule) and the Red Sox (due to the rain) were idle, the Yankees beat up on the Orioles in Camden Yards, winning 11-3 in a game that wasn’t even that close.
Unlike the Devil Rays’ game, this one wasn’t a blowout from the start. In fact, the game almost didn’t start at all. Delayed an hour and a half by rain, the game finally got underway in a mild drizzle just after 8:30. The Yankees leapt into action, with Derek Jeter singling on Rodrigo Lopez’s second pitch, followed by an Alex Rodriguez walk, and, as the rain picked up, a Jason Giambi fly out to center that moved Jeter to third. Gary Sheffield then fouled off a pitch only to have his at-bat interrupted by a twenty-minute rain delay.
When the game resumed, Lopez worked out of the jam by striking out Sheffield looking on a pitch in off the plate and getting Hideki Matsui to ground out to second on a 3-0 count. He then settled down and exchanged zeros with Randy Johnson for a couple of innings before Hideki Matsui singled on the first pitch of the fourth.
Matsui’s single, a bouncer back up the middle, seemed innocent enough. The Yankees’ lead-off man had singled in the first and second without scoring either time. In the second, that batter was Ruben Sierra, who in the fourth followed Matsui’s single with a strikeout. Robinson Cano then singled to right to put runners at the corners, at which point Joe Torre signaled for the safety squeeze with John Flaherty at the plate. Flaherty squared to bunt, but pulled the bat back to take a strike as Matsui scampered back to third, where Melvin Mora, likely surprised by the squeeze attempt, failed to cover the bag. Flaherty then fouled off the next pitch from Lopez and, amid what seemed like a few hundred throws to first, took four straight balls to load the bases. Bubba Crosby then hacked at three pitches, missing the first two and popping the third to Tejada in shallow left field.
That left it to the Captain with the bases loaded and two outs. Jeter took a trio of pitches just off the plate, the first off the outside corner called a strike. The second off the inside corner called a ball, and the third in the same spot called a strike. Lopez then went back outside for a foul, then way outside, and way inside to run the count full, finally losing Jeter on a pitch high and inside to drive in the first run. Alex Rodriguez followed with a hard double past Mora at third to plate another pair of runs. Jason Giambi, then 1 for his last 17 since his back started acting up in Toronto, hit Lopez’s very next pitch into the bleachers in right center for a three-run home run to run the score to 6-0. It was his first homer in two weeks (since that opening statement against the Devil Rays, actually). After a four-pitch walk to Sheffield, Matsui hit a warning track shot to dead center for the third out.
Randy Johnson pitched around a pair of singles in the bottom of the fourth and with that the route was on. The Yanks added five more runs in the sixth off relievers Eric DuBose (who started the inning by walking Giambi, Sheffield and Matsui on twelve pitches to load the bases), and Jason Grimsley, thanks in part to a through-the-wickets error by Melvin Mora on a bases-loaded grounder by Flaherty.
By the time Derek Jeter singled to make it 10-0, Joe Torre began putting in his subs and, although the weather had long since cleared, when Randy Johnson got Tejada to fly out to Bubba Crosby in center to end the sixth and make the game official, the game was, for all intents and purposes, over.
With Tino Martinez, Felix Escalona, Mark Bellhorn, Matt Lawton and, yes, even Tony Womack (who singled in his first at-bat since September 2, his second AB since August 24) in the field, Scott Proctor and Felix Rodriguez pitched 1-2-3 seventh and eighth innings respectively.
With the Orioles turning to the likes of Walter Young, Eli Whiteside and Ed Rogers, Joe Torre then turned to maligned LOOGY Alan Embree for the ninth. After getting Chris Gomez to fly out on his first pitch, Embree surrendered an opposite field single to the left-handed Young, then gave up the right-handed Rogers’ first major league-hit, a two-run homer to left. After a four pitch-strikeout of Whiteside, Luis Matos lifted a fly to right that Matt Lawton failed to track, letting it drop for a double. Eric Byrnes then singled Matos home to run the final score to 11-3, hopefully eliminating the likelihood of Embree ever pitching in a Yankee uniform again.
Once again, the Yankees took advantage of the opportunity to effect a permanent half-game swing in the standings with a rival idle. In this case, they pulled even with the current Wild Card leaders, the Cleveland Indians. Meanwhile, the rain-out in Boston will force the Red Sox to play a double header against the Blue Jays today. Unfortunately, the change in schedule has wiped out Saturday’s dream match-up of Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling, as Schilling, who was scheduled to pitch last night, will now throw the night-cap of the double header and be pushed to Sunday’s season finale, with Tim Wakefield, who will pitch the day game, pitching on short rest on Saturday. Elsewhere, Curtis Granderson’s bottom of the ninth home run for the Tigers handed the White Sox yet another loss, leaving them just two games ahead of the Indians (and Yankees).