By the fourth inning yesterday when the New York Yankees broke through off Steve Trachsel and took their first lead of the weekend, the Orioles had already concluded that they were in for a tough afternoon.
Yankees starter Andy Pettitte, a nemesis of theirs for years, had breezed through the Orioles' lineup on just 26 pitches, striking out three and letting just one ball out of the infield in three flawless innings. The Orioles' first hit, a swinging bunt by Jay Payton that went for a single, didn't come until there were two outs in the fifth inning.
And their first run didn't come until Pettitte left the game after delivering seven dominating innings. Bidding for their first three-game sweep of the Yankees in three years, the Orioles came up significantly short, falling, 7-1, before an announced 37,501 at Camden Yards in a game that was twice delayed by rain in the final two innings.
The loss dropped the Orioles to 11-8 and concluded their homestand with a 4-3 record. After today's off day, they'll play 17 of their next 20 games on the road, starting with three in Seattle. It will be a tough test, but at least the Orioles won't have to face Pettitte for a while.
"Andy Pettitte was outstanding," Orioles manager Dave Trembley said. "He had command from the first hitter, used all his pitches. He was going to be tough to beat."
The 35-year-old left-hander, who has 204 career victories and more against the Orioles than against any other team, allowed only four hits and struck out five in seven shutout innings. He improved to 23-6 with a 3.77 ERA in 35 career appearances (33 starts) against the Orioles. Only Hall of Famer Catfish Hunter (26) and Mickey Lolich (25) have more victories against the Orioles than Pettitte.
And he made his latest look quite easy. Pettitte (3-1) needed 12 pitches to get out of the first inning, six in the second and eight each in the third and fourth. The Orioles' first scoring opportunity didn't come until Payton and Adam Jones had consecutive two-out singles in the fifth. However, Pettitte got catcher Guillermo Quiroz to fly out to center field.
"Pettitte was sharp today," said Payton, who went 2-for-4. "He didn't give in to anybody. He was throwing that cutter on your hands and throwing some good changeups, some good curveballs away. ... He just really knows how to pitch."
The Orioles, who fell behind 2-0 in the fourth when Trachsel (1-3) surrendered back-to-back RBI doubles to Alex Rodriguez and Hideki Matsui, did finally get a couple of base runners off Pettitte. However, in both the sixth and seventh innings, they failed to score a runner from third with one out.
Yankees left fielder Johnny Damon then gave his team more breathing room with a two-run homer off Chad Bradford in the seventh inning, just the fourth homer Bradford has surrendered since the start of the 2005 season.
The Orioles didn't get their first run until Brian Roberts' sacrifice fly in the eighth, which came after the bottom of the inning was delayed 37 minutes because of rain. The Orioles brought the potential tying run up in the form of Kevin Millar later in the inning, but Brian Bruney got him to pop out in the infield to end the inning.
The Yankees blew the game open in the ninth when Derek Jeter hit a three-run double off Orioles closer George Sherrill. Mariano Rivera got the final three outs after a second 37-minute rain delay before the bottom of the ninth.
"We're still playing good, solid ball," said Trachsel, who allowed three earned runs in 6 1/3 innings. "We took the series from them. We're happy with that."