Yankees 2, Orioles 1
Instead of fielding a question, he asked one.
“What inning is it?” he inquired.
Moments after the Yankees beat the Baltimore Orioles 2-1 Wednesday night, Rodriguez and his teammates rushed off the field to find out if the victory thrust New York into sole possession of first place in the AL East, one game ahead of Boston.
After Manny Ramirez made the final out for the Red Sox in a 7-2 loss to Toronto, there was no commotion in the New York clubhouse. Just a feeling of satisfaction that will last at least until Thursday night’s game against Baltimore.
“It doesn’t mean anything unless you come in and play well tomorrow,” Rodriguez said. “It’s obviously better to have a one-game lead than a tie, but we still have to come out here and play an important game tomorrow night.”
Boston and New York meet in a three-game series beginning Friday night. The Yankees’ victory Wednesday means New York will need no more than two wins at Fenway Park to capture the division crown.
“There’s no comfort. We know what the Boston Red Sox are all about. We saw what they did last year. That’s very clear in our minds,” Rodriguez said, referring to Boston’s comeback against New York in the ALCS last October on the way to a World Series title.
One night after the Yankees and Orioles combined for 26 runs and 26 hits, the teams locked up in a tense pitching duel that turned in New York’s favor in the latter innings.
First, Rodriguez hit his 47th homer off Daniel Cabrera (10-13) to tie it at 1 in the sixth. The shot broke Joe DiMaggio’s single-season club record for home runs by a right-handed batter, set in 1937.
New York went up 2-1 in the seventh. After Jorge Posada hit a leadoff single and Cabrera hit Bernie Williams with a pitch, Robinson Cano moved the runners up with a sacrifice bunt against Tim Byrdak. Jeter then hit an opposite-field single to right off Todd Williams.
“Any way you can get it done now,” Jeter said. “Robbie put down a good bunt to get the runners over. It seems like every at-bat is important at this point in the year.”
Rodriguez followed with a fly ball to right. Bernie Williams tagged from third, but was thrown out on a precise throw by Jay Gibbons in a close play at the plate.
Baltimore has lost 10 of 11, and this one really stung interim manager Sam Perlozzo.
“I’m not happy about this loss, OK? For multiple reasons. You can guess yourself,” he said, tersely.
Although he didn’t say it, much of his anger was directed at the strike zone of plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt.
“There were a few pitches, in my opinion, the umpire missed,” catcher Javy Lopez said. “That’s when the rally really started. Instead of getting a strikeout, there was a base hit. There were a few like that.”
Lopez put the Orioles ahead 1-0 in the second inning by driving a 2-0 fastball into the left-field seats. It was his 14th homer, and second in two games.
Lopez doubled in the fourth to put runners on second and third with two outs, but Chacon retired Luis Matos on a popup.
Cabrera breezed through the first five innings, giving up two hits and two walks without allowing a runner past first base. All that changed in the sixth, when Rodriguez connected on an 0-1 pitch to tie it and break DiMaggio’s long-standing record.
“The win, obviously, is the most important thing right now,” Rodriguez said. “The record is certainly something I’ll think about once this whole thing is over. The home run was at a huge point in the game; Cabrera had us dazzled there for five or six innings. It was good to tie it up and get some momentum.”
Rodriguez’s homer was New York’s 223rd, tying the 2002 club for fourth-most in Yankees history. The club record is 242, set last year. … Lopez has at least one hit in 40 of 55 games since coming off the disabled list (broken hand) on July 25.