- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 7, 2001


NEW YORK In many ways, Mike Trombley has been the Baltimore Orioles' most valuable player this season. In his role as pseudo closer/setup man, the right-handed pitcher entered last night's game against the New York Yankees with a sparkling 1.80 ERA and four saves.
So it seemed to make perfect sense when manager Mike Hargrove called upon Trombley in the eighth inning with the Orioles clinging to a one-run lead over the Yankees and two on base.
It also seemed to make sense to have Trombley intentionally walk Scott Brosius (a traditional Orioles and Trombley killer) to load the bases with a left-handed pinch-hitter, either Henry Rodriguez or injured catcher Jorge Posada, likely coming up to bat for Todd Greene.
Hargrove's game management didn't defy logic. Posada's game-winning, pinch-hit grand slam did.
The rocket line drive to right field gave the Yankees a 7-4 victory and dashed the Orioles' hopes for two straight road wins over their division rivals.
"We hung on and battled and battled," Trombley said, "and then all of a sudden, one swing and that's the ballgame. That's the life of a reliever."
Trailing 4-3 heading into the bottom of the eighth, New York got hits from Bernie Williams and Tino Martinez off left-hander Buddy Groom (1-1), who has been nearly as effective as Trombley. After a groundout to first, Hargrove brought the right-hander in, instructing him to walk Brosius (who hit a game-winning homer off Trombley last month in Baltimore) and pitch to the pinch hitter.
"Trombley's been good against both left-handed and right-handed hitters," Hargrove said of his decision to pitch to Posada instead of Brosius. "And Posada doesn't run that well and is a good double play guy. But he just got a pitch up, and Posada did what good hitters do."
Suffering from a sprained left thumb, Posada has been available only to hit for the last few days. That's why the recently promoted Greene, a former Angel and Blue Jay, was in the lineup in the first place.
Posada took a pitch, fouled one off, then took a borderline sinking fastball from Trombley that was called a ball to make the count 2-1. Visibly perturbed at the call, Trombley was forced to throw another sinking fastball instead of his better split-finger fastball.
The sinker on 2-1 didn't sink, and Posada crushed it for the grand slam.
"I just threw a bad pitch," Trombley said. "I tried to sink it away and I got it up."
Until the calamitous eighth inning, Baltimore had played good baseball. Jose Mercedes was perfect for 3 2/3 innings and left in the seventh in line for his second win of the season.
Mike Bordick enjoyed his best offensive game of the year, going 4-for-4 with two home runs.
Bordick's first shot, a first-inning blast to left field, came moments after Jerry Hairston led off the game with a home run off Ted Lilly.
Bordick's second swat, his sixth of the season and third in two nights, sailed deep over the left-field fence in the fifth and put the Orioles up 3-0.
Mercedes got into trouble in the fifth. Paul O'Neill and Brosius led off with singles up the middle, bringing Greene to the plate. The catcher crushed Mercedes' first pitch over the wall in right-center for a game-tying homer, leaving the crowd of 25,137 pleading for a curtain call.
Clearly tiring by the seventh, Mercedes walked two straight batters and was pulled in favor of left-hander John Parrish, who made his first appearance of the season in a two-on, two-out jam. Parrish fell behind David Justice 2-0 but got the veteran outfielder to hit a weak grounder to Hairston to end the inning and preserve the slim lead Baltimore took in the top half of the inning.
Mike Kinkade led off the top of the seventh with a single that drove Lilly from the game. Brook Fordyce's sacrifice bunt off reliever Carlos Almanzar moved Kinkade to second and Hairston drove him in with a single up the middle.
Mike Stanton (5-1), though, shut Baltimore down for 1 2/3 innings, and Mariano Rivera pitched the ninth to record his 17th save in a game that Groom and Trombley appeared ready to close out.
"Mike and Buddy both have been very good for us all year long," Hargrove said. "You never enjoy it when it happens, but I guess they are allowed one."

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