Yankees 8, Orioles 5

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BALTIMORE (AP)—As the line drive hooked toward the left-field corner, Larry Bigbie began circling the bases.

At the same time, Hideki Matsui intensified his pursuit of the ball.

“I knew it was tailing away, and I didn’t think he was going to get it,” Bigbie said.

Matsui wasn’t so sure, either. But he never let up.

After driving in the tiebreaking run in the seventh inning, Matsui preserved the lead with a sensational catch to rally the New York Yankees past the Baltimore Orioles 8-5 Thursday night.

First, Matsui hit a sacrifice fly to cap a three-run uprising that gave the Yankees a 6-5 lead.

In the bottom of the seventh, with two on and two out, he robbed Bigbie with a running, backhanded stab of an opposite-field liner near the wall. Matsui lost his hat as he rolled on the warning track after hitting the padding, but the ball remained secure in his glove.

“When it was hit, I had the feeling I could catch up to it,” Matsui said. “But then the ball started spinning farther away from me.”

Undaunted, Matsui closed the gap.

“You know he had a chance by how hard he was running after it,” Yankees manager Joe Torre said. “When he jumped, I still held my breath because I knew he had to crash into the wall.”

Matsui’s heroics made a winner of Andy Pettitte (14-7), who allowed five runs and 11 hits in six-plus innings. The left-hander improved to 17-4 lifetime against Baltimore, including 11-2 at Camden Yards.

“The guys swing the bats well here and have scored some runs for me when I haven’t been able to throw a strong game,” Pettitte said.

Jorge Posada hit a two-run homer in the ninth, and Bernie Williams went 3-for-3 with two RBIs and two walks to help New York maintain its three-game lead over Boston in the AL East.

The Yankees had lost three of four, but Torre believes Matsui’s catch just might get them on a roll.

“It was unbelievable. That’s the kind of play that can start a winning streak,” Torre said.

Tony Batista hit a three-run homer and Brian Roberts had a solo shot for the Orioles, who have lost four straight.

Baltimore outhit the Yankees 12-10, but lamented the one that Matsui took away.

“I don’t know how he got to that ball,” manager Mike Hargrove said. “I thought the ball was over the head. He made a tremendous play, then to hold onto the ball after he hit the wall, that was something.”

Baltimore failed for a third straight time to get Damian Moss his first AL victory. Moss, obtained in the July 31 trade that sent Sidney Ponson to San Francisco, was lifted in the sixth with Baltimore holding a 5-3 lead.

The Yankees rallied against the Orioles’ bullpen in the seventh. After New York loaded the bases with no outs against Eric DuBose (1-2), Williams hit a two-run single off Hector Carrasco and Matsui lifted a long foul ball down the left-field line that produced the go-ahead run.

That was enough to give Pettitte another victory over the Orioles, his third without a loss this season.

Mariano Rivera got four outs for his 24th save in 29 chances.

New York used a sacrifice fly by Jason Giambi and an RBI double by Matsui to go up 2-0 in the fourth, but the Orioles scored four runs in their half.

Deivi Cruz walked, Jay Gibbons singled and Batista ended an 0-for-12 skid by sending a 1-1 fastball into the left-field seats. Jose Leon then reached second when his pop fly to center dropped in front of Williams, and Bigbie followed with an RBI single.

David Delluci, a former Oriole playing in Baltimore for the first time since 1997, hit an RBI double in the fifth to make it 4-3. Roberts led off theOrioles’ half with his fourth homer, the first since June 14.


The game was a makeup of the July 2 rainout. … Orioles 1B Jeff Conine, who missed a sixth straight game with bursitis in his right biceps. … New York’s Aaron Boone went 0-for-4 with a walk and is 6-for-48 (.125) in 13 games since being acquired in a trade with Cincinnati. … Cruz, who had only seven walks all season, received two from Pettitte. … The Yankees’ 39-23 roadrecord is best in the majors.

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