- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 27, 2002

BALTIMORE On an emotionally charged night that seemingly had fans at Camden Yards sitting on the edge of their seats, the Baltimore Orioles waited until the bottom of the ninth inning to send the game's biggest shock wave through the stadium.
Tony Batista's RBI single with two out capped one of the Orioles' most satisfying games of the season, a thrilling 8-7 victory over the New York Yankees that brought them within one game of the .500 mark.
"I think this is the biggest [win] of the year," said first baseman Jay Gibbons, who clubbed a two-run homer off Roger Clemens in the first inning. "The emotional roller coaster the whole game it felt like a playoff game. It was just awesome."
A night that began with Clemens plunking Batista between a pair of first-inning home runs ended with Batista's game-winner, a groundball through the left side off reliever Steve Karsay that brought Gary Matthews Jr. home from second and gave Baltimore its fourth straight victory.
Should they pull off an improbable three-game sweep of the Yankees tonight they're already 6-5 against the Bronx Bombers this year the Orioles (37-38) would reach .500 for the first time since they were 18-18 on May 11.
"We've played some top-notch teams, and we've played well against them," said Matthews, who also homered off Clemens in the first. "This is the time of year where you find out what type of team you are. Either you sink or swim."
Plenty of emotions were on display for the crowd of 42,670, but perhaps no one felt more of them than Willis Roberts. The Baltimore reliever pitched out of jams in both the seventh and eighth innings and seemed to come up with a new exhibition of exultation with each out. He wound up earning his second win in as many nights for his effort.
"When I do it, I don't think about it," said Roberts of his fist-pumping, chest-thumping antics. "I don't care [if opposing players don't like it]. I want to do my job. I want to help my team win every time out."
Said Batista: "That's his game. If you try to change him, he might lose his concentration."

Clemens caught everyone's attention when he plunked Batista following Matthews' home run, then yielded another by Gibbons. Batista had hit a grand slam off Clemens on Opening Day, the defining blow in the Orioles' 10-5 win.
One might expect a power pitcher like Clemens to give up plenty of home runs, but he's been tagged just eight times in 17 starts. Five of those homers, however, have been hit by the Orioles three last night (Chris Singleton hit a solo shot in the fourth).
When Baltimore strung together three singles in the sixth, Yankees manager Joe Torre pulled Clemens. Melvin Mora and Brian Roberts each drove in another run off reliever Ramiro Mendoza, with both runs charged to Clemens, leaving his season numbers against the Orioles at 0-1 with a 7.50 ERA in four starts. Baltimore has won all four games.
"Any time you face Roger, you have your work cut out for you," Baltimore manager Mike Hargrove said. "I don't know if Roger was on top of his game tonight, but even when he's off with his location, Roger is awfully good."
Making his first career start against New York, Rodrigo Lopez had an opportunity to show Torre he's worthy of a spot on the All-Star team. But six erratic innings (including two-run homers by White and Jorge Posada) did little to aid Lopez's cause. He'll head into Sunday's All-Star selections with a 6-3 record and a 3.10 ERA impressive numbers for a rookie but not likely good enough to earn a spot on the AL roster.
Lopez did leave the game with a chance to earn his seventh win, but those hopes faded when left-hander Yorkis Perez (making his Baltimore debut) dropped a throw covering first base against the only batter he faced in the seventh. Rick Bauer followed Perez, plunked Shane Spencer with his first pitch and then gave up a game-tying single to Alfonso Soriano.
Note Injured first baseman Jeff Conine (strained right hamstring) showed better strength than the Orioles were expecting during exercises Tuesday, but Hargrove said he doesn't think Conine will be ready to come off the disabled list when he becomes eligible Sunday.


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