Delivering in clutch

The Baltimore Sun

NEW YORK -- Aubrey Huff described the mood in the Orioles dugout after the bottom of the ninth inning as a "quiet anger." Players kept their frustration to themselves, preferring to stew internally about the sequence of events that saw an apparent victory over the New York Yankees being suddenly thrown in doubt.

What really could have been said anyway? With one powerful swing by Shelley Duncan, the Orioles had squandered a three-run, ninth-inning lead and another masterful pitching performance by Erik Bedard, who doesn't seem to be capable of anything else these days. They had seen this play out so many times before in this exact location, so the sudden reversal wasn't a total surprise, even if what happened next might have been.

The Orioles answered right back in the 10th with three runs off Yankees closer Mariano Rivera and held onto the lead this time, posting a 6-3 victory before an announced 53,663 yesterday at Yankee Stadium.

"To score three off Rivera, that's pretty much unheard of," Orioles right fielder Nick Markakis said. "But I had a good feeling that if we got out of the [ninth] inning without another run scoring, we had a good chance to win."

Markakis, who had spent part of the three-game series trying to dodge errant offerings from Yankee pitchers, delivered a blow of his own with a leadoff double off the wall in the 10th. Miguel Tejada broke the tie with a double over the head of left fielder Hideki Matsui, and then Huff gave the Orioles a little breathing room with a two-run home run.

Just like that, "quiet anger" turned into a loud celebration.

"Those are just frustration at-bats," said Huff, describing the 10th inning outburst off the likely future Hall of Fame closer, who also blew a save in Monday's series opener. "I think we were just a little bit [ticked] off and swung a little bit harder. That's the first ball I've ever hit hard off him. As soon as I hit it, I couldn't believe it. It was like, 'I finally barreled one up.' "

And when Chad Bradford finished a relatively drama-free 10th, the Orioles had finally closed out the Yankees in what is becoming a familiar feeling. They are now 8-4 against their American League East rivals, their most wins against them in a season since 1997. That also happens to be the last time the Orioles won a season series against New York.

Though the teams have six games remaining, the Orioles, who are 18-13 since the All-Star break and 27-23 under Dave Trembley, are in decent position to take the season series for just the third time in the past 25 years.

The Yankees, who missed out on an opportunity to gain ground on the first-place Boston Red Sox, have lost four consecutive series to the Orioles for the first time since 1982, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. They've lost just two of their past 12 series, both to the Orioles.

"Right now, we have the confidence," Tejada said. "We're not quitting. It doesn't matter how many runs the other team scores. We always think we can come back."

The Orioles actually never trailed yesterday, thanks to another brilliant performance from Bedard, who added to his American League Cy Young Award credentials with everything but a victory.

"Hey, that's life," Bedard said. "You can't win them all. The basic thing is we came back and won the game. That's all that counts."

Bedard pitched seven scoreless innings, allowing four hits and walking two batters, while striking out eight. A strikeout of Wilson Betemit in the first inning was Bedard's 200th of the season, a feat reached by only two other pitchers - Mike Mussina and Dave McNally - in Orioles history. This season, Bedard is 2-0 with a 1.29 ERA against the Yankees in three starts and has thrown 20 straight scoreless innings against them.

"He knows what he's doing," said Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, who was hit by a Bedard fastball in the first inning, though Bedard said it wasn't intentional. "He mixes his fastball in and out, got a good off-speed pitch. He gets ahead, you don't know what he's going to throw. He's pretty much been doing that to the whole league."

Bedard allowed just three Yankees into scoring position all afternoon and one of them was no fault of his own. Left fielder Tike Redman lost a ball in the sun in the sixth inning, putting two runners on, but Bedard promptly struck out Jorge Posada.

"I think he's the best pitcher in the league," Tejada said. "He looks like Cy Young every time he takes the mound."

With the Orioles leading 3-0 in the ninth, Danys Baez allowed the first two Yankees he faced to reach before striking out Posada for the first out. With left-handed-hitting Bobby Abreu announced as the pinch hitter, Trembley replaced Baez with Jamie Walker.

He got Abreu on a groundout, bringing the right-handed Duncan to the plate with two outs. Yankees manager Joe Torre had left-handed hitters Jason Giambi and Johnny Damon on the bench, so Trembley knew that if he brought in the right-handed Bradford, Giambi would probably hit.

So he allowed Walker to face Duncan, who got behind 0-1 before hitting Walker's low changeup into the left-field seats. The Yankee Stadium crowd erupted, summoning Duncan, a sudden Broadway sensation, for a curtain call. But an inning later, the crowd was silenced again.

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