- The Washington Times - Monday, May 14, 2001

NEW YORK After six straight losses to the New York Yankees, it figured that the Baltimore Orioles would need something unusual to finally defeat their American League East rivals.

Something like three Orioles home runs, a botched play in the field by Derek Jeter and five runs off the Yankees' ace closer, Mariano Rivera.

All three were necessary for Baltimore to pull off a dramatic 10-5, 11-inning victory yesterday before 39,819 stunned Yankee Stadium spectators.

New York, which was seeking to sweep the Orioles for the second time in the last two weeks, nearly sent Baltimore home in devastating fashion when Paul O'Neill crushed a two-run homer off reliever Ryan Kohlmeier in the bottom of the ninth to tie the score 5-5.

But facing the game's most dominating closer in Rivera, the Orioles erupted for five runs in the 11th, capped by Jeff Conine's mammoth three-run homer to left field. It was the first time Rivera (1-3) had ever given up five runs in a relief appearance.

"Nobody, least of all the Yankees, expects Rivera to give up five runs," Orioles manager Mike Hargrove said.

Still, when catcher Brook Fordyce singled with one out in the top of the 11th, something seemed to indicate Rivera wasn't in top form.

"Yeah, if somebody gets on, you realize he might not have the best stuff," Conine said. "Countless times, you see him come in and no one even gets the bat on the ball."

Brady Anderson followed with a single to right, advancing Fordyce to third and forcing Yankees manager Joe Torre to play his infield halfway in. Jerry Hairston laced a sharp grounder right at Jeter, but the All-Star shortstop couldn't get a handle on the ball and only got Anderson out at second on a force play, with Fordyce scoring the eventual winning run.

Rivera came apart after that, walking Delino DeShields, giving up a run-scoring single to Mike Kinkade and bringing Conine to the plate. The veteran first baseman, who already had two hits for the day, clobbered one of Rivera's trademark cut fastballs over the wall in left-center for his fourth homer.

Conine knew what to expect from Rivera; the 95-mph cutter is the only pitch he really throws. He just had to figure out a way to hit it.

"As a hitter, your thought process is, 'I've got to gear up for one pitch, and that's it,' " Conine said. "But that's how good it is. You know what's coming every single time, and yet it's that difficult to hit."

Left-hander B.J. Ryan (2-0), who had come in for the Orioles to replace Kohlmeier, dominated the Yankees for two innings, recording five of six outs on strikeouts to quash any hopes of a second New York comeback.

"I think that's what you have to do as a reliever: come in and pitch strikes," Ryan said. "Brook had a good game plan, and I just went with him and went after them."

For all the excitement of their fourth extra-inning win in as many games, the Orioles should have wrapped this one up in nine. Baltimore took a 5-3 lead into the bottom of the ninth, thanks to a three-run homer by Chris Richard his fifth of the season and third in six games and a two-run shot by Greg Myers. Both came off Yankees starter Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez, who lasted eight innings.

Kohlmeier, who had allowed one hit over his last five outings, walked Chuck Knoblauch with one out but got Jeter to fly out, bringing O'Neill up as New York's last hope. The veteran connected on a 2-0 fastball for his ninth homer, sending the crowd into a frenzy and tying the game.

"You're on the verge of victory, and then they tie the game up," Conine said. "You're deflated. It's like, sigh here it goes again."

Lost among the late-game heroics was Baltimore starter Jose Mercedes' best outing of the year. Though he was again denied his first win (against six losses), Mercedes pitched a standout game, scattering nine hits over 6* innings without walking a batter.

"He was outstanding today," Hargrove said. "He gave up three runs on two broken-bat base hits and a ball off the end of the bat. He got some big outs against some very good hitters."

Note David Segui will return to Baltimore tonight after playing in one more extended spring training game in Sarasota, Fla. The first baseman, who has been out three weeks with a strained tendon in his left middle finger, will be reexamined tomorrow and could be activated in time for tomorrow night's game against Detroit.

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