BALTIMORE — The plan was to give weary relievers Jamie Walker and Chad Bradford the night off, and with a six-run lead in the ninth inning, the Baltimore Orioles appeared poised to do just that.
That's when the slumbering offense of the New York Yankees finally stirred.
After New York got five straight hits off rookie Cory Doyne, Walker forced Johnny Damon to ground into a rare double play, then sealed a 7-5 victory last night at Camden Yards by striking out Bobby Abreu with Alex Rodriguez on deck.
Rodriguez, needing a home run to reach 500 for his career, struck out three times and went 0-for-4. He also made an error, fumbling a grounder to third that led to an unearned run.
Rookie Brian Burres outpitched Roger Clemens and Miguel Tejada had four RBI for the Orioles, who built a 7-1 lead in the eighth. It turned out to be just enough of a cushion to enable Baltimore to earn its sixth straight win.
Jorge Posada hit a two-run homer in the ninth and Melky Cabrera singled in a run to make it 7-4. Walker then got Damon to ground into a double play for the second time in the game; Damon had gone 102 games since Sept. 16, 2006, without hitting into one.
Derek Jeter hit an RBI single, but Walker struck out Abreu on a 3-2 pitch to earn his third save. During the at-bat, Bradford was throwing hard in the bullpen, preparing to face A-Rod.
"I didn't want to pitch either one of those guys," interim manager Dave Trembley said of Walker and Bradford. "The game would have had to be on the line before either one came in tonight."
Before the ninth, the Yankees had scored only three runs in 28 innings, including the completion of a suspended game Friday night.
"We were very anxious early. We swung at a lot of bad balls," New York manager Joe Torre said. "At best I can say we're unpredictable. We were having such a tough time, and all of a sudden we snap to life."
New York has lost three in a row, and is assured of losing its first series since the All-Star break.
Rodriguez has gone 0-for-7 with two walks in the first two games and the final inning of the suspended game.
"They're being extremely careful. I'm kind of playing into their hands a little bit," he said. "There's not much I can do with the pitches I'm swinging at. ... I got one pitch [to hit] in three games. I can't help it."
Said Torre: "Right now, he's not very selective at the plate, and that certainly has to change so he can get a strike."
Brian Roberts scored three runs for the Orioles, whose six-game run matches its best of the season. Baltimore has won eight in a row at home, its longest such streak since 2003, and improved to 6-2 against New York.
Activated from the disabled list Friday, Tejada hit two-run doubles in the first and seventh innings. The last time he had as many as four RBI in a game was on Aug. 23, 2005, against the Los Angeles Angels.
"I was sitting on the bench last week and now I'm in the game, helping my teammates," Tejada said. "This is nice."
Burres (5-4) took a two-hitter into the seventh. He struck out the side in first and finished with seven strikeouts.
Because he is the fifth starter and the Orioles were off July 19 and 23, Burres was pitching on 11 days' rest. The left-hander was pulled after Hideki Matsui led off the seventh with his 19th home run and Posada followed with a single.
That made it 3-1, but Baltimore answered with two runs in the bottom half, then added two in the eighth. The lead barely held up.
Clemens (3-5) gave up four runs and eight hits in 61/3 innings, striking out six and walking three. Making his 700th start, the 44-year-old fell to 0-2 against the Orioles this season and 6-8 at Camden Yards.
"I think we had a chance to win," Clemens said. "It was fun for them; it wasn't a lot of fun for us. We made somewhat of a game of it late."