NEW YORK -- The 53,857 announced fans at Yankee Stadium last night let out a collective roar, but it wasn't in reaction to Mariano Rivera's game-ending strikeout, though that would come minutes later.
When the scoreboard flashed the final score of the Toronto Blue Jays' latest victory over the Boston Red Sox, pulling the New York Yankees closer to first place in the American League East, the fans cheered louder than they had all night. Their undivided attention now could be on the field, where the Orioles (64-87) were finally offering some sturdy resistance.
Down by one run, the Orioles, who had been outplayed in almost every way through the first 26 innings of the series, loaded the bases on an unusually shaky Rivera. But the closer rediscovered his control just in time, getting pinch hitter Scott Moore to look at three straight strikes to end the game and send the Yankees to a 2-1 victory and a series sweep of the Orioles.
The Yankees (88-64) are 1 1/2 games behind the Red Sox in the AL East, while the Orioles, losers for the 22nd time in 28 games, headed to Texas one game closer to having their season reach a merciful end. It was the 11th time this year that they have been swept in a series.
"You guys saw it," said Moore, who was pinch hitting for Brandon Fahey. "The guys battled to get on base and then I didn't do [anything]. I just stood there. You need to go up there and concentrate and have a good at-bat. I didn't swing it. I didn't do my job."
Moore was hardly the only Oriole who left Yankee Stadium filled with regret, though it might stick with Jay Payton longer than some others. After he was ejected for the second time in three nights arguing a called third strike in the fifth inning, Payton threw his helmet and it skidded dangerously close to plate umpire Mike Reilly.
Payton's actions - he also flipped his bat behind him, though Reilly had since vacated the area - undoubtedly will get the attention of the league, which is likely to suspend him. And Payton could also face discipline from the Orioles, because manager Dave Trembley wasn't thrilled with his player's outburst.
"He's obviously frustrated as a lot of other people," Trembley said. "I'll have to talk to him about it"
Asked whether Payton might be disciplined internally, Trembley said, "That's between me and him."
Payton declined to discuss the incident when he was approached by reporters, saying: "I don't have [anything] to say tonight, fellas. All I'm going to do is get myself in more hot water if I speak."
Orioles starter Brian Burres allowed just two earned runs in 7 1/3 innings, his second-longest outing of the season. He limited the hot-hitting Yankees, who had beaten up on Oriole starters Daniel Cabrera and Jon Leicester in previous nights, to five hits and three walks, while striking out seven.
But he was left to lament two fastballs - one that didn't come close enough to the plate and one that caught too much of it. Hideki Matsui hit a bases-empty homer in the second inning and the Yankees scored the eventual winning run in the fifth when Burres tossed a pitch over the head of catcher Ramon Hernandez with Alex Rodriguez at the plate. That allowed Doug Mientkiewicz to score easily from third base.
"I just wish that one pitch I wouldn't have thrown over Ramon's head," said Burres, who had pitched seven scoreless innings against the Blue Jays in his previous start. "Maybe we're still playing at 1-1 or something like that. I was trying to throw a heater up and threw it a little too up."
Burres (6-6) said he was buoyed by a talk from Trembley the previous night. After watching the Yankees score 12 runs against his staff Tuesday, Trembley sought out Burres in the clubhouse that night and told him that he would pitch a good game the following night.
"With Brian, it's about confidence," Trembley said. "He's got the pitches to pitch at this level. ... When he has command of his fastball, he's pretty darn good. He had it tonight. He just looks a whole lot more comfortable when he knows that he's going to pitch every five days. He's opened my eyes and hopefully a lot of other people's eyes for next season as a starter in our rotation."
The Orioles just gave him little support against Yankees starter Andy Pettitte (14-8), who allowed just one run in 7 2/3 innings to win his 200th career game.
Pettitte improved to 21-6 against the Orioles but didn't dominate them, allowing base runners in seven of the eight innings that he started. But the Orioles also hit into two double plays, and two of their runners were thrown out stealing.
Melvin Mora drove in the Orioles' run with a sixth-inning single to score Brian Roberts, who had drawn a one-out walk and then stolen second and third base.
Trailing 2-1 in the ninth, Nick Markakis blooped a one-out double down the right-field line. Rivera retired Kevin Millar after a long at-bat, bringing Aubrey Huff to the plate. The count was 2-2 when the crowd erupted, knowing that the Yankees were one strike away from gaining another game on the Red Sox.
However, Rivera walked Huff and then did the same to Ramon Hernandez, also on a 3-2 count. But after falling behind 1-0 to Moore, Rivera did what he usually does, and the Orioles rookie didn't take his bat off his shoulder.
Asked whether he felt Moore was going to get the job done, Trembley said, "I was confident that we were going to win when I got up this morning."