Wednesday, May 28, 2008

O's Pull out Improbable Win over Yanks

BALTIMORE -- For five hours, it was a game that defied a conventional ending. The Orioles erased two four-run deficits, braved a 67-minute rain delay in the ninth inning and overcame an ambush in the 11th to earn a 10-9 win over the Yankees on Tuesday.

Baltimore never led until the game ended, giving manager Dave Trembley a new personal highlight.

"This is the best game I've ever been a part of to win," Trembley said of his team's effort. "I've never seen anything like that. That's a real credit to our team. That's probably the biggest understatement I can say. That's just incredible."

New York and Baltimore combined for 16 runs in the first five innings and three over the next seven, but the teams still provided a hectic endgame. The Yankees stranded two runners in scoring position before the rains came, and the Orioles left two runners on base against closer Mariano Rivera in the bottom of the 10th.

The Yankees briefly forged ahead in the 11th, but Orioles' defense nearly stopped the rally. Second baseman Brian Roberts made a tough stop of a hard-hit grounder by Alex Rodriguez with no outs and the bases loaded, firing home to start a 4-2-5 double play. New York pushed ahead on a two-out hit by left fielder Hideki Matsui, but the Orioles nullified that rally with one of their own.

Third baseman Melvin Mora -- who had made a key error in the top half of the inning -- led off with a single in the 11th. Aubrey Huff doubled him in, and after two intentional walks, Alex Cintron won the game with a single to deep right field off LaTroy Hawkins. Cintron, who started the game on the bench, reveled in the Orioles' victory.

"This is the best game I've ever watched," Cintron said. "And I was watching it for three or four hours. I think it was pretty cool to see with the way we came back. Everybody did a great job. The bullpen did a great job, our hitters did an outstanding job and Brian Roberts made a play that was amazing. That was one of the keys to the ballgame."

"Man, that was a great team effort," said first baseman Kevin Millar, who hit two home runs. "Bottom line, the full 25-man roster contributed. ... But what a great game. We had two four-run deficits and came back to tie the game both times. Obviously, in the 11th inning we get behind a run, and once again we just show the character of the club."

Virtually all of New York's runs came via the long ball, but Baltimore kept resolutely battling back. The Yankees (25-27) got four runs in the second inning on the strength of a solo homer by Jason Giambi and a three-run shot from Johnny Damon, and they scored four more in the fourth with help from home runs by Bobby Abreu and Rodriguez.

Baltimore (26-25) never went away, answering both of New York's rallies with flair. The Orioles got back-to-back homers from Millar and Ramon Hernandez in the second -- the team's first back-to-back long balls since August of last season -- and tied the game again in the fifth on the strength of three deep shots from veterans Mora, Luke Scott and Millar.

"It's such a great 'W' because we had two four-run deficits," said Millar. "To go down, 4-0, to the Yankees and to tie it right back up, 4-4, to go down, 8-4, and tie it right back up, 8-8. And then to go down in the 11th ... that's not easy. You don't want to make a living doing that, but it was a great team effort and a big win."

"That was a fun game -- especially to come out on top," added Huff, who scored twice. "That's a heartbreaker to lose. That's why you play baseball, for games like this. Everybody contributed. ... Everybody stepped up."

Perhaps the only player in the Baltimore clubhouse who didn't contribute was starting pitcher Brian Burres, who wasn't available for comment after the game. The southpaw tied his career high in earned runs allowed (eight) and gave up a career-high four home runs. His ERA rose by nearly a full run (from 3.16 to 4.15) in the process.

Burres had given up just three home runs all season prior to Tuesday's outing, and his overall numbers show a wild disparity. The southpaw has allowed two earned runs or less four times, notching a 4-0 record and a 1.05 ERA in those circumstances. On the other hand, he's posted an 0-4 record with a no-decision and an 8.18 ERA in his other five starts.

"I'll replay this one for a long time," Trembley said. "That was tremendous. Burres did the things that we talked about before we came out on the field today. He didn't get left-handed hitters out [and] he didn't get the bottom of the lineup out. He pitched up in the zone and they whacked it. ... There were just so many things that happened in the game."

Millar held forth on some of those things, raving about the play Roberts made in the top of the 11th.

"I've never seen that," Millar said of the double play. "First of all, I've never seen a guy catch a ball that hard off the bat. And then to go home, to third -- phenomenal. I thought for sure that was just going to be our night."


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