The Orioles needed a win, not a cruel tease. They needed a real victory, not the moral kind that bring forced smiles and an empty feeling.
An eighth-inning rally hinted at the end to their six-game losing streak last night, and Brian Roberts made it official, hitting a home run on the first pitch from reliever Mike Stanton in the 10th to give the Orioles a 5-4 victory over the New York Yankees before a sellout crowd of 47,465 at Camden Yards.
Roberts crushed an 88 mph fastball from Stanton, and he was mobbed at home plate, with manager Lee Mazzilli hugging him the longest. He has 13 home runs, none more important than this one.
Down 4-3 in the eighth, the Orioles (43-34) tied the game against Tom Gordon but wasted an ideal chance to take the lead. Roberts drew a leadoff walk and raced to third when Gordon fielded Larry Bigbie's bunt and threw wide of first base. Miguel Tejada followed with a single into center field, clapping his hands as he left the batter's box.
Rafael Palmeiro got ahead 3-0 before striking out. Jay Gibbons also went down swinging, and shortstop Derek Jeter backhanded Sammy Sosa's grounder and made a side-armed throw on the run to get the force at third, with Alex Rodriguez stretching to keep his foot on the bag.
Earlier, Bigbie hit his second home run in two nights, and Palmeiro produced the 563rd of his career.
Palmeiro's homer, a two-run shot in the sixth that reduced New York's lead to 4-3, moved him into a tie with Reggie Jackson for ninth place on the all- time list and left him 10 hits shy of 3,000. He also passed Frank Robinson for 15th place on the all-time RBI list with 1,813.
Orioles starter Sidney Ponson allowed two home runs, the second a 421-foot blast to center field by Hideki Matsui in the sixth inning that increased the Yankees' lead to 4-1.
Cal Ripken received a standing ovation after his image was shown on the video board between innings, creating a nice distraction for local fans who had little else to cheer about before Palmeiro's homer.
They keep waiting for Melvin Mora's return, but he's missed the past seven games with a strained right hamstring. They keep waiting for Sosa to emerge from his slump and begin crushing baseballs again.
Mora will attempt to run today before the Orioles determine whether to place him on the disabled list.
Lowered to sixth in the order, Sosa went 0-for-4 and hit into a double play in the second inning after Gibbons" leadoff single.
"I didn't want to put him in a spot where he'll have a lot of pressure on him." manager Lee Mazzilli said. "I'm trying to alleviate some of it."
On the same night as the NBA draft, the Orioles needed Ponson to rebound from his last start. He allowed six runs and 11 hits in 5 1/3 innings of a 6-2 loss in Toronto, raising his opponents" average to .322, the highest in the league.
Last night's game was delayed 33 minutes at the start because quired a little more time, allowing two runs in the first inning and forcing the Orioles to play from behind.
Jeter reached on an infield hit, with Chris Gomez diving to smother the ball but taking too long to gain control of it. Robinson Cano also singled to put runners on the corners, and Rodriguez lifted a sacrifice fly to right.
With two outs, Matsui doubled off the center-field fence to produce another run. He was tagged out between second and third after Palmeiro cut off the ball, allowing Ponson to retreat to the dugout, his cap held in his hand and an agitated look on his sweaty face.
Ponson gave up a bases-empty homer to Cano in the third, upping New York's lead to 3-1, but his demeanor had changed by the fourth.
A leadoff single by Matsui and one-out walk to Jason Giambi was followed by Ruben Sierra's second double-play grounder. Ponson nodded his head and slapped hands with Miguel Tejada. A potentially big inning for the Yankees produced nothing.
Chien-Ming Wang, the third major league player from Taiwan, appeared to be in control until Palmeiro homered to center field with two outs in the sixth. None of the Orioles had faced him.
Gomez reached second base with two outs in the seventh after Cano's throwing error, but pinch hitter Eli Marrero shattered his bat on a flyout to left. Marrero is hitting .070 against right-handers this year.
2003: Jay Gibbons - .277
2002: Jeff Conine - .273
2001: Jeff Conine - .311
2000: Delino DeShields - .296
1999: B.J. Surhoff - .308
2003: Tony Batista - 28
2002: Tony Batista - 31
2001: Jay Gibbons / Chris Richard - 15
2000: Albert Belle - 23
1999: Albert Belle - 37
2003: Jay Gibbons - 100
2002: Tony Batista - 87
2001: Jeff Conine - 97
2000: Albert Belle - 103
1999: Albert Belle - 117
2003: Brian Roberts - 23
2002: Jerry Hairston - 21
2001: Jerry Hairston - 29
2000: Delino DeShields - 37
1999: Brady Anderson - 36
2003: Sidney Ponson - 14
2002: Rodrigo Lopez - 15
2001: Jason Johnson - 10
2000: Jose Mercedes - 14
1999: Mike Mussina - 18
2003: Omar Daal - 11
2002: Jason Johnson - 14
2001: Jose Mercedes - 17
2000: Mike Mussina - 15
1999: Scott Erickson / Sidney Ponson - 12
2003: Jason Johnson - 189 2/3
2002: Rodrigo Lopez - 196 2/3
2001: Jason Johnson - 196
2000: Mike Mussina - 237 1/3 (Led AL)
1999: Scott Erickson - 230 1/3
Opponent: New York Yankees
Site, time: Camden Yards, 7:05
TV/Radio: Comcast SportsNet/WBAL (1090 AM)
Starters: Yankees' Mike Mussina (8-5, 3.95) vs. Orioles' Hayden Penn (2-1, 6.07)