A Fitting End To A Strange Game
If a few more things had gone completely awry on Saturday night in Camden Yards, the game between the Yankees and Orioles could have been its own blooper reel. Jason Giambi’s twelfth inning homerun put the Yankees on top for good, but it was Jack Cust’s pratfalls in the bottom of the frame that kept the game from going on any longer. The Yankees walked away from the debacle with a 5-4 victory that hopefully nobody will remember.
With his team down by a run in the bottom of the last inning, Cust stepped to the plate with two outs. He drew a walk from Jeff Nelson after falling behind 0-2, and made his way to first base to represent the tying run.
Larry Bigbie came up to the dish and laced a double to right-centerfield. Karim Garcia cut it off and fired into the infield for Alfonso Soriano. But the Orioles’ third base coach was waving Cust home. Cust, realizing that the ball was in Soriano’s hands and that he was not a fast runner, slammed on the breaks after rounding third and fell flat on his behind.
But that wasn’t the end of it. Soriano threw over to Aaron Boone, who began to chase Cust toward home. Boone threw to Posada, who chased Cust back to third before giving Boone the ball back. Cust turned again toward home where nobody was covering.
Boone noticed that home was left unguarded as well, and took off after Cust, who had a good ten-foot head start. Cust would have made it home and tied the game too, if he hadn’t fallen again. Cust stumbled and fell about eight feet from home plate, and Boone applied the tag to end the game.
The late-inning antics overshadowed two excellent performances from two Yankee backups, and it also helped cover up a major blunder on the part of the Yankee coaching staff.
In the first inning, Tony Batista was the fourth man to bat against Sterling Hitchcock – who started in place of the injured David Wells. The problem was that Batista was listed as the fifth hitter on the lineup cards that were handed out before the game. The Orioles third baseman hit a sacrifice fly that scored a run, but Joe Torre and the Yankees didn’t notice until later.
Had the Yankees appealed the play right then, the run would have been stricken from the scoreboard, and Batista would have been called out. Instead Torre brought the matter up in the fourth inning when the Orioles swapped their lineup back to its original form, but then it was too late to do anything.
Hitchcock was excellent in his emergency start, lasting six innings and allowing just three runs on five hits. He struck out three and didn’t walk a batter. He left the game with the score tied at three however, denying him a decision.
John Flaherty, the Yankees backup catcher, was the reason that the score was tied at all. In the fifth, he hit a solo homerun to make the score 3-2 in favor of the O’s. He then tied the game in the seventh with his second homerun of the game.
After Hideki Matsui’s RBI single gave the Yankees a 4-3 lead, Mariano Rivera came on to pitch the ninth. He allowed a leadoff homerun to Luis Matos for his sixth blown save of the season. It was the second straight game that Rivera had given up a long ball.
Giambi’s 35th homerun got Rivera and Torre off the hook in the twelfth inning.
Chris Hammond (3-1) got the win in relief, pitching two scoreless innings and allowing just one hit. Hector Carrasco (1-4) suffered the loss after blowing a save against the Yankees on Thursday. He allowed a run on a hit and two walks in two innings.
Nelson notched his eighth save of the year with a scoreless twelfth.
The Yankees have now won the first three games of this series and will look to sweep the Orioles on the road on Saturday at 1:35 pm. Mike Mussina (13-6, 3.19) will face off against his old teammates for the Yankees. Rodrigo Lopez (5-7, 5.62) will get the start for Baltmore.
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