Ray may not be a computer, but his stats show a surprising firewall. In two years as Baltimore's closer, Ray is 0-4 with a 7.56 ERA against the Yankees, and he's allowed four home runs in eight appearances. Meanwhile, the right-hander is 4-1 against the rest of the league and has only allowed seven home runs in 56 games.
Baltimore had a one-run lead when the ninth started on Saturday, and Ray got two quick outs to move the O's closer to a hard-earned win. He allowed a two-out hit to Robinson Cano, though, then walked Derek Jeter and hit Bobby Abreu. Ray ran the count to 2-2, but wound up grooving a belt-high fastball that Rodriguez crushed for a homer.
"It just looked like he was trying to overthrow," said Baltimore manager Sam Perlozzo, who used five relievers after a solid start by Steve Trachsel. "He was really rushing his delivery instead of just pitching a little bit."
"I was fine. I was comfortable out there," added Ray, who got the save in Friday's 6-4 win. "If I had made my pitches, it would've been a different outcome. I just didn't locate as well as I should've."
The game-winning shot by Rodriguez made history. The 10-time All-Star and two-time Most Valuable Player became just one of three players to hit three walk-off grand slams in his career. The other two players were Vern Stephens, who did it in the '40's and 1950, and Cy Williams, who became the first to do it two decades before that.
One inning before Rodriguez won the game, the Yankees had another breathtaking rally. Reliever Danys Baez came in with a four-run lead and coaxed a fly ball to center field from the first batter. Baez walked Abreu and Rodriguez after that, and designated hitter Jason Giambi made him pay by blasting a three-run shot over the right-field fence.
Baez had come close to striking out Rodriguez on a 2-2 pitch, but his full-count offering was clearly a ball. After the game, the erstwhile closer met the media and lamented the way the game played out.
"It's only the beginning of the season," he said. "We're making adjustments, especially in this weather. We have a lot of games to play ahead, so we've got to be focused for tomorrow and the next day. That's the way it is in the bullpen. Trachsel did a great job, and that's the main part. We lost one game we were supposed to win."
Despite a blip in the first inning, Trachsel and the Orioles (1-4) had the game well in hand for most of the day. Rodriguez drilled a two-run homer in the first to give the Yankees their first lead, but Trachsel settled down and held New York (2-2) to one run for the rest of his outing. He left in the seventh with a four-run lead.
"I hadn't thrown in seven days, so I was a little nervous about being too strong," he said. "I was pretty happy I was able to control my emotions, especially after the first inning. I didn't make too many mistakes, which was key for me."
Baltimore's Nick Markakis came through with the first key hit, a solo homer over the left-field fence in the first inning. After that, third baseman Melvin Mora did most of the heavy lifting. Mora blooped a three-run double with the bases loaded in the second and drilled a two-run homer in the fourth to tie his career high for RBIs (five).
The Orioles hit starter Kei Igawa hard, roughing him up for eight hits and seven runs in five innings. Baltimore only got one hit for the rest of the game, though, and never pushed another runner into scoring position. Mariano Rivera, New York's closer, got the victory after pitching a scoreless ninth inning.
"I just said, 'We'll get 'em tomorrow.' That's pretty much all you can do," Perlozzo said. "They played a good, hard game and put us in position to win, which is where we want to be. We just didn't get it done."