The frustration of a six-game losing streak is gripping the Orioles almost as hard as reliever Steve Kline's hold on his manager's warm-up jacket last night. So far, only one has let up.
Kline was ejected in the eighth inning after being called for a balk, the Orioles" eighth this season, and the New York Yankees turned it into the go-ahead run in a 6-4 victory before 45,801 at Camden Yards that sprinkled a little more controversy over a storied rivalry.
Kline spun toward second base umpire Laz Diaz, who made the call that advanced Jorge Posada to second base, then charged plate umpire Marty Foster and pointed a finger in his face. Mazzilli got in front of Kline, who grabbed him while attempting to get closer to Foster.
The scene ended with first base coach Rick Dempsey escorting Kline to the dugout, as the reliever kept pausing to yell in Foster's direction.
Mazzilli resumed the argument after Kline flipped the ball toward the umpires, who formed a tight circle in the infield. Kline seethed in the runway, hands on hips, his face red.
His mood didn't improve after Posada scored on pinch hitter Bernie Williams" sacrifice fly, giving the Yankees a 5-4 lead. They added an unearned run in the ninth off Jorge Julio.
Kline (2-3) was called for a balk in May that broke a tie and cost the Orioles the game. He also disputed that one, replaying it in the team's video room later, but last night was his first ejection.
Starter Daniel Cabrera left with two outs in the sixth, the bases loaded and the Orioles ahead 4-2. Rookie Chris Ray walked Derek Jeter to force in a run, and catcher Sal Fasano's passed ball tied the game.
Unable to run away with the division, the Yankees would settle for not stumbling so much. They lost 11 of 14 games earlier this season and dropped five of seven before last night, bringing the expected angst from owner George Steinbrenner. Team executives are due in Tampa, Fla., today for meetings with Steinbrenner, and the tone doesn't figure to be soothing.
"My patience is a little short by the fact that the team is not performing up to its great capabilities." Steinbrenner said in a statement issued by spokesman Howard Rubenstein. "The players have to want to win as much as I do."
Steinbrenner wouldn't disclose the nature of the meetings, but it's apparent that jobs are on the line.
"He hasn't lost his fighting spirit." Rubenstein told the Associated Press. "He said, "We"ll never give up." He wants this message to be conveyed."
The Orioles have their own battles to fight. Melvin Mora sat out his sixth consecutive game with a strained right hamstring, and the disabled list is a possibility. Leading the division by three games a week ago, the Orioles trail by 2M-= after the Boston Red Sox lost last night.
"The adversity for us right now is the injuries more than anything, not the way we"ve been playing." Mazzilli said. 'Guys have been playing as hard and as much as they can. Sometimes, you get to the point where you push a little bit. You know you"re short and guys may be trying to do a little bit too much rather than staying with the game plan. It's human nature to do that."
Adjustments also come to pitchers who no longer are winning.
Cabrera has tweaked his windup after working with pitching coach Ray Miller. Without runners on base, he's incorporated a trunk twist that makes him resemble a poor man's Hideo Nomo.
Something needs to be done. Cabrera hasn't won since June 5, losing four of his past five starts going into last night. His 5.54 ERA was the eighth- highest in the American League before last night, and his command remains an issue. He threw 116 pitches in 5 2/3 innings and walked six batters.
The game included Rafael Palmeiro's 2,988th career hit, allowing him to pass Sam Rice for 26th place on the all-time list.
Palmeiro hit in the cleanup spot last night, ahead of Sammy Sosa, who went 0-for-4 to lower his average to .239. Sosa lined out in the first inning to strand two runners and grounded into a double play in the fourth after Palmeiro singled.
Jay Gibbons followed with a single, moved to second on a balk by Yankees right-hander Carl Pavano and scored on a single by Gomez, who continues to start for Mora.
Larry Bigbie homered in the third inning, and his double started a two-run rally in the fifth that gave the Orioles a 4-1 lead. Brian Roberts also doubled, with Yankees left fielder Hideki Matsui getting a late jump on the ball, Luis Matos laid down a sacrifice bunt and Miguel Tejada followed with a sacrifice fly.
Opponent: New York Yankees
Site, time: Camden Yards, 7:05
TV/Radio: Comcast SportsNet/WBAL (1090 AM)
Starters: Yankees' Chien-Ming Wang (4-3, 4.31) vs. Orioles' Sidney Ponson (7-5, 5.42)