"It shows that we've competed against the best," said Baltimore manager Dave Trembley. "And maybe not with a full deck."
Baltimore has had to overcome several injuries this season, but all it needed to do Friday was beat one of the best relievers in the history of the game. New York's Mariano Rivera held a three-run lead in the ninth inning, but he hit one batter and walked another to load the bases with two outs. That brought left fielder Jay Payton -- who had tripled earlier -- to the plate.
Payton got ahead of Rivera and tied the game by rifling a three-run triple to right field. That gave the veteran the first two-triple game of his career, but Baltimore (69-91) couldn't drive him home. New York (92-68) left the bases loaded in the top of the 10th, but center fielder Tike Redman got a one-out double and scored on a walk-off bunt single by Melvin Mora.
"Nobody expected that," said Mora, Baltimore's third baseman. "When I saw the third baseman way back, I made up my mind before anything happened. I said, 'We need just one run. We don't need a grand slam.' It was exciting."
"It's just nice to get a W -- it doesn't really matter who it's against," added Payton, who went 2-for-5 on the night. "After the kind of season we've had, it's just nice to be able to win a game -- especially in that fashion. I think everybody had a little bit of fun tonight. You try to salvage what you can in these last couple days and go into the offseason on a positive note."
The Yankees took control early Friday by putting together a four-run burst in the third inning. Shortstop Derek Jeter delivered a two-run single in that rally, and third baseman Alex Rodriguez drilled a two-run home run. Rodriguez came through with two more hits before the night was over and wound up tied for his team's highest RBI total (155) since 1948.
Baltimore starter Jon Leicester gave up seven earned runs, but the Orioles fought back to erase him as the pitcher of record. Baltimore got four straight hits in the fifth inning -- three of which scored runs -- before Ramon Hernandez was thrown out trying to stretch a double into a triple. That rally may have ended prematurely, but it helped spark the home team.
"I thought we got back in the game when we had two guys on in the sixth and [Nick Markakis] was the [potential] go-ahead run at the plate," said Trembley, looking back at the game's key moments. "I thought that's when we really got back into it. In the ninth, you just sensed that something good was going to happen, somebody was going to come up with a hit."
Both teams played for one run in the extra inning, and the two pitching staffs utilized identical strategy. With one out and the potential go-ahead run standing on third base, Trembley instructed veteran reliever Chad Bradford to walk the bases loaded. That allowed the Orioles to skip Rodriguez, and Bradford (4-7) got a popup and a fly ball to escape the threat.
"I thought we had one shot right there," Trembley said. "Gosh darn, are you going to let a guy beat you who has 155 RBIs after we've come back? I don't think that would have been a prudent move."
"As a pitcher, I don't want to put anybody on," said Bradford. "But looking back, it was the best move to make. They had A-Rod up with a guy on third and one out, and there's a lot of things he can do to get that run in."
The Yankees got that same opportunity in the 10th after Redman hit a one-out double and moved to third on a passed ball. Rookie reliever Edwar Ramirez -- who took the ball from Rivera to start the inning -- intentionally walked both Markakis and Miguel Tejada. Ramirez got one out, but Mora dropped a bunt up the unguarded third-base line to win the game.
"I know this was a good win, because it came against the Yankees," he said after the game. "I know there are a lot of Boston Red Sox fans screaming in Boston. ... It's good whenever you beat the Yankees, because they're one of the best teams in baseball. That lineup is tremendous -- from the leadoff guy to the nine-hole.
"To beat the Yankees, you'd have to think it's something special for this team. We play hard against our division and we've beaten the Yankees so many times this year. It's a good sign."