NEW YORK -- Chris Ray sat at a table in the middle of a mostly quiet Orioles clubhouse yesterday morning, playing cards with several teammates while reminders of what happened to him and his team about 18 hours earlier were all around him.
His elbow rested right near a stack of newspapers with the headline "A-Men," chronicling Alex Rodriguez's walk-off grand slam against the Orioles' closer a day earlier. Behind Ray, about 10 of his teammates sat around a clubhouse television, fixated on highlights of Rodriguez's prodigious blast. Ray never even bothered to turn around.
"Usually when I am on TV, it's not a good thing," he said.
Ray wanted nothing more than to get another chance yesterday to close out his nemesis, the New York Yankees, and an ace-like performance by Erik Bedard and an unlikely hitting star in Paul Bako granted him one. Ray allowed one hit, but exorcised his recent demons against the Yankees by preserving the Orioles' 6-4 victory in front of 47,679 at Yankee Stadium.
"When I first got here this morning, I wanted another shot at it. I wanted to go back out there as soon as possible in a save situation and finish the game," said Ray, who entered the game 0-4 with a 7.56 ERA against New York since becoming the Orioles' closer. "This is the best-case scenario for me to come out here and still take the series, and I was able to go out there and get the save."
It was a better day all around for the Orioles, who are home today for Opening Day pomp and circumstance at Camden Yards, feeling better with a 2-4 record after taking two of three from the Yankees and putting the season-opening sweep by the Minnesota Twins and Saturday's meltdown behind them.
"For us to bounce back after a devastating loss last night, I think was a great sign of what's to come," said designated hitter Kevin Millar, who had two hits and three RBIs yesterday, including a two-run, second-inning homer off New York starter Darrell Rasner.
Orioles starter Bedard was a symbol of the club's resilience. Still smarting from his disappointing performance against the Twins in the season opener, Bedard allowed three runs in the first inning, two of them coming on another home run by Rodriguez. Rodriguez got a standing ovation when he came to the plate for the first time, and he jumped on Bedard's first pitch, sending it over the wall in right-center field for his fourth home run and his third in the past two days.
But Bedard, who said he might have gotten down on himself earlier in his career in that situation, kept his composure, even enjoying a laugh with the plate umpire when he walked toward the dugout after the final out of the bottom of the first.
After Rodriguez's homer, Bedard, relying on a curveball that he couldn't locate in Minnesota, retired 11 straight Yankees and 20 of the last 22 he faced.
"He showed why he's our ace and he's one of the elite lefties in our league," said his catcher, Bako. "His expression or demeanor didn't change when it was 3-0 in the first or when he was still pitching in the seventh. He was the same guy the whole game."
Said pitching coach Leo Mazzone: "He didn't let the runs in the first bother him. He pitched. He changed speeds and mixed in his fastball, changeup and curveball. He looked very calm and confident on the mound. He didn't try to overthrow. He looked like a classic left-handed pitcher today."
Bedard allowed five hits and walked none, striking out five. He also finished his 99-pitch outing with a flourish, striking out pinch hitter Jorge Posada on a nasty curveball to end the seventh.
"I just threw more curveballs for strikes on the first pitch or in any count, pretty much. That was the turnaround for me," Bedard said. "I guess I have more experience under my belt and I have a better way to deal with those situations."
The Orioles, who put starting catcher Ramon Hernandez on the disabled list earlier in the day, took a 5-3 lead in the fourth inning on Bako's three-run home run off Rasner. It was Bako's first home run since 2004, and it earned the light-hitting catcher some ribbing in the Orioles' dugout.
The Orioles, who led after 21 of the 27 innings in the three-game series, took a 6-3 advantage into the eighth inning yesterday, but that's when it again got dicey.
Jamie Walker allowed a leadoff triple to Johnny Damon, who scored on Melky Cabrera's groundout. Chad Bradford was brought in after Bobby Abreu hit a two-out single off Walker, and he promptly walked Rodriguez, who was the tying run. Left-hander John Parrish was then summoned, and, after walking Jason Giambi to load the bases, he got Josh Phelps on an inning-ending flyout.
Ray started preparing for this moment a night earlier while he was sitting in his hotel room watching television and trying to reconcile the memories of his blown save.
"There were so many things going through my head," Ray said. "The amount of mistakes I made [Saturday], I just couldn't believe it. It just didn't seem real to me. When I got here today, I just wanted to get in that game."
Ray traced his problems Saturday to overthrowing - "I went out there trying to throw it by people and strike people out on an 0-0 count," he said - and was reminded by Mazzone early yesterday to "pitch, not throw your way out of adversity."
"I was impressed today, I really was," Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo said. "He had tremendous composure last year, but [Saturday] I thought was a tough one for him. For him to come back as good as he did [yesterday), that shows me something."