Yankees 12, Orioles 9
NEW YORK (AP)—Gary Sheffield is not about to let his injured leg get in the way of the Yankees’ drive for a playoff spot.
Sheffield hit a grand slam and drove in six runs, Jorge Posada added a three-run homer and New York kept the pressure on in a pair of playoff races Tuesday night with a 12-9 victory over the Baltimore Orioles.
The Yankees (87-63) have won eight of nine and climbed 24 games above .500 for the first time this season. New York remained a half-game behind first-place Boston in the AL East and moved within a half-game of Cleveland in the wild-card race.
“This team is resilient,” Sheffield said. “We don’t quit. Now we’re starting to come into our own.”
A strained thigh muscle forced Sheffield to miss four games and has kept him from playing the outfield since his return, but he was strong enough to lead the Yankees to a win on a night that unbeaten Aaron Small was not sharp.
“The thing about Sheff is, even if he’s not 100 percent he’s still intimidating,” Yankees manager Joe Torre said. “You just feel he’s going to find a way to get it done.”
Small (9-0) allowed four runs and 10 hits in five-plus innings, the shortest of his eight starts this season. Benefiting from an offense that has scored 36 runs in his last four starts, he became the first pitcher to win his first nine decisions for the Yankees since Tommy John in 1979.
“Every game is so magnified and so crucial right now,” Small said. “It doesn’t matter how you get it done as long as you win. They don’t have to be pretty as long as you get them done.”
But the win did not come easily. The Orioles got 18 hits, put at least one runner on in every inning and forced the Yankees to use closer Mariano Rivera in a non-save situation.
“It was tough,” Torre said. “Normally when you don’t get a 1-2-3 inning you don’t come away with a victory.”
Alex Rodriguez hit his 45th homer, an opposite-field solo shot into the upper deck in right, and Sheffield added an RBI single in the eighth after the Orioles closed within three runs.
Baltimore rookie John Maine (2-2) didn’t get an out in the second inning, and All-Star second baseman Brian Roberts also left in the second after his left elbow was dislocated in a collision with Bubba Crosby while covering first base on a bunt.
Sheffield’s RBI double and Posada’s 17th homer gave New York a 4-0 lead in the first, but Roberts delivered a two-run triple during a three-run second. The Yankees answered right back by batting around in the bottom half.
Crosby crashed into Roberts’ outstretched left arm, snapping it back. Roberts dropped the ball and went to the ground in tremendous pain, allowing Williams to jog home from third.
Interim manager Sam Perlozzo was ejected by plate umpire Sam Holbrook, perhaps for arguing that Crosby ran inside the baseline, and missed his team’s sloppy play that helped New York score four more in the inning.
“I really wasn’t arguing in the first place,” Perlozzo said. “I was asking whether the runner was in the baseline. I was upset that my player was in so much pain. End of story.”
Derek Jeter bounced back to the mound, but instead of possibly starting a double play, Maine fumbled the ball for an error that put runners at first and second.
“That’s embarrassing,” Maine said. “It’s just a comebacker and I messed it up.”
James Baldwin relieved and got Rodriguez to fly out. Jason Giambi hit a high pop into short left field that shortstop Miguel Tejada called for but couldn’t come up with, and Sheffield followed with his 10th career slam, and first since May 17, 2003, with Atlanta.
Sheffield hadn’t had an extra-base hit since a home run in Seattle on Aug. 31, but didn’t blame his injury.
“I always feel like I can play through anything,” he said.
Maine allowed seven runs, six earned, and six hits.
Jay Gibbons hit a two-run homer, his 23rd, in the seventh, but the Orioles lost for the 20th time in 30 games.
The Yankees have six grand slams this season. … Perlozzo said he plans to speak with Rafael Palmeiro soon to see what the first baseman’s plans are for the rest of the season. Palmeiro fell into a deep slump after returning from his suspension for a positive steroids test and was sent home to Texas to rest knee and ankle injuries earlier this month.