"We had to wait for it, but we played a very good game," said Baltimore manager Dave Trembley. "We did an awful lot of things well. We had an awful lot of contributions in a lot of different areas. I understand it was a very big night for Derek Jeter. Congratulations to him, but the bottom line is the Orioles won the game."
The Yankees (91-51) took the first lead in the first inning on a towering three-run home run by Alex Rodriguez. Jeter quickened the collective Yankee Stadium pulse in the third, when he singled up the right-field line to pass Lou Gehrig on the team's all-time hit chart at 2,722. The shortstop singled again to drive in a run in the fourth.
While all of that was going on, Baltimore starter Chris Tillman was finding his bearings. The 21-year-old stranded two runners on base in both the third and fifth innings, and he came out to pitch the sixth with a three-run lead. Tillman faced two batters, resulting in an infield single and a hit batsman before Trembley went to get him.
Immediately, that decision paid dividends. Situational southpaw Alberto Castillo got a strikeout against center fielder Brett Gardner, and ground-ball specialist Matt Albers coaxed a threat-ending double play from Jeter.
"Once again, the walk in the first inning and the home run ball, it seems like we've been down that road far too many times," said Trembley of Tillman. "He hurt himself by being late, not covering first base, which cost him a run. But his curveball improved. I thought he was the best guy to go back out there in the sixth. After he hit [Melky] Cabrera, that was it. Castillo came in and got a big out, and Albers got Mr. Jeter to bounce into a double play."
Tillman, a veteran of just eight big league starts, had never thrown against the Yankees before. The right-hander knew about all the hoopla surrounding the Jeter situation, and he was prepared for it by veteran catcher Chad Moeller. And Tillman showed it right away by getting Jeter to strike out in the first on a curveball that tailed out of the strike zone.
Jeter got even in his next at-bat, stroking a single up the right-field line and soaking in the applause of a capacity crowd at Yankee Stadium. Tillman (2-3) could've cratered at that point, but he used it as a rallying point.
"This stadium is kind of intimidating with all the fans," Tillman said. "Guys are coming out to stretch, and they're getting a standing ovation. It's kind of intimidating, but Moeller kind of settled me down. He played here for a couple of years and he said, 'Hey, you need to relax here and do your job.' It took a big load off my back."
Undeterred, the Orioles (57-83) came back against Andy Pettitte. Baltimore used a two-run rally in the fifth to make it a 4-3 game, but Pettitte managed to strand three runners on a grounder to second base. The Orioles pushed their first five runners on base against Damaso Marte in the sixth and came away with four backbreaking runs.
And as if that wasn't enough, the Orioles scored three more times against reliever Edwar Ramirez in the seventh. The game was then halted by rain -- the second delay of the evening -- with Baltimore ahead by six runs. Three hitters -- Brian Roberts, Cesar Izturis and Nick Markakis -- drove in at least two runs in the win.
The victory may not have come over Pettitte, but it did give the Orioles a sense of accomplishment. The veteran southpaw hasn't lost to Baltimore in this decade, and he's gone 7-0 with a 2.31 ERA against the O's over that span. And while this may have been a no-decision for Pettitte, Trembley was happy to have it.
"He has been absolutely phenomenal career-wise and the years I've been with the Orioles against us," said Trembley of the left-hander's dominance. "He's almost a sure thing every time he pitches at Yankee Stadium against us. We worked him, didn't chase bad pitches, got his pitch count up and got some big hits. That was key."
Baltimore had two players leave the game early due to injury, but both are expected to be OK for Saturday's game. Felix Pie had back spasms, while Melvin Mora left the game after getting hit in his elbow in the fifth. The two rain delays -- one before the start of the game and one in the sixth -- totaled two hours and 34 minutes.
Still, much of the game was played in either a misting rain or a heavy downpour.
"Awful," said Moeller of the playing conditions. "They stunk from time to time, and then it just got long."