Friday, May 23, 2008

O's Come out on Short End of Duel

NEW YORK -- After trading twin blowouts, the Yankees and Orioles only had one direction to go. Baltimore and New York combined for 22 runs in the first two games of the series before both struggled to score for most of Thursday's finale, but Robinson Cano gave the home team a 2-1 win with a two-out single in the ninth inning.

Reliever Jim Johnson gave up that hit, which scored Hideki Matsui from second base. Left fielder Jay Payton made a futile throw home on the final play, and Baltimore left New York with a two-game losing streak.

"You don't call it frustrating. They pitched great," said Baltimore catcher Ramon Hernandez. "It was a good pitching game, so you can't really be frustrated, because it was 2-1. It wasn't like 10-0. I think it was a good game, and you know what? As long as we keep holding teams like that ... you'll be in every game and you'll have a lot of opportunities."

"After coming off that game last night, we were ready to play," added manager Dave Trembley. "It's a learning experience for a lot of guys coming in here. This is a very tough venue to not only play in, [but to] pitch in [and] win here.

"We had our opportunities and didn't get it done. We certainly didn't give it to them. They had to earn it and Johnson has just been remarkable for us, and he'll be better because of tonight's opportunity that he got."

Johnson, who fired 18 scoreless innings this season before allowing his first earned run, came on to get a key out in the eighth. He retired Derek Jeter in that inning, but gave up a leadoff single to Matsui in the ninth. Johnson (0-2) went on to get two strikeouts -- including one on a controversial call that spurred Yankees manager Joe Girardi's ejection -- before walking Shelley Duncan.

That brought Cano to the plate, and the second baseman steered the winning hit straight through shortstop.

"The walk really killed us," said Johnson. "You can't defend a walk. It's frustrating, because [Brian] Burres pitched his butt off and we just couldn't get it done. I'll take the blame for it. I just didn't execute my pitches when I should've."

Burres kept the Orioles (24-22) in the game all night, consistently keeping the Yankees (22-25) off base and out of threatening situations. The southpaw got help from a spectacular catch by right fielder Nick Markakis in the first inning, but then he did the rest of the work. Burres pitched into the eighth inning and retired 12 of the last 13 batters he faced.

"That's probably as good as I've seen him pitch, and I've seen him pitch a lot," said Trembley. "He had a lot of guys swinging and missing over the top of his ball. I thought his changeup was good. He recovered nicely against some left-handed hitters that he didn't put away. And with guys on base, he didn't get rattled. He kept the ball in the ballpark.

"That's a difficult thing to do here -- make sure to keep the ball in the ballpark against this lineup."

The problem came with Baltimore's offense, which has scored just one run in its last two games. The road team scored the game's first run on a triple by Freddie Bynum in the third inning, but rookie starter Ian Kennedy escaped with the bases loaded. Kennedy stranded another pair of runners in the sixth, and his bullpen handled the Orioles with ease.

Baltimore only had one hit after the sixth inning, and that runner wound up stranded at first base. Trembley said that the third inning may have been the game's turning point, but he didn't use it as an excuse.

"We had an opportunity to knock a guy in and score some runs. It didn't happen," he said. "But I don't think it really has much of an effect on our club because we're very resilient. We keep battling [and] we don't let those kinds of things get to us. But when the game's over, you can look back on that and say 'Hey, we had an opportunity to do something there.'"

"We just haven't been good enough," said second baseman Brian Roberts, who went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts and a walk. "Our pitchers have done what they needed to do. The bad part of it is the guys that are supposed to be doing it offensively are not doing it. Guys like Freddie and [Adam Jones] and some of the younger guys are doing a good job.

"Unfortunately, it's guys like me and Nick [Markakis] and some of the other [veterans] that aren't carrying our weight. It's not from a lack of effort or preparation or trying. It's just not working out yet. We just have to do a much better job."

Johnson and the Orioles got the benefit of a tough call at home plate in the ninth inning. Designated hitter Jason Giambi appeared to watch a pitch go past him into the catcher's glove, and he stepped back a few paces before home-plate umpire Chris Guccione ruled that the ball had actually tipped the knob of his bat.

Giambi argued the call, and Girardi was ejected when he came out to support him. The resulting fireworks took several minutes, but Johnson said he wasn't really affected by it. Still, he wound up walking Duncan -- who had walked five times all season -- and giving up the game-winning hit in rapid succession.

"I think he foul tipped it," said Hernandez of the Giambi play. "He holds the bat like I do, with the knob hanging down. I heard it when it hit the bat, and he didn't react like he got hit. I kind of figured it out and I told the umpire, 'He foul tipped it.'"


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