- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 23, 2003

NEW YORK — The Baltimore Orioles were barely hanging on. Ninth inning, bases loaded, two outs — and Yankee Stadium was getting loud.

“No, I don’t like that situation,” Orioles catcher Brook Fordyce said. “They come back too often.”

Not this time.

Buddy Groom retired pinch-hitter Ruben Sierra for his first save of the season, preserving Baltimore’s 4-3 victory over the New York Yankees last night. Pat Hentgen pitched into the eighth inning, and Fordyce homered and drove in two runs as the Orioles ended New York’s seven-game winning streak.

Deivi Cruz hit a tiebreaking double with two outs in the sixth off David Wells, sending the Orioles to their third straight win following a season-high eight-game skid.

“You had a lot of guys come in and do their jobs,” reliever B.J. Ryan said.

Alfonso Soriano and Nick Johnson homered for the Yankees, who swept four games in Baltimore last weekend. During the game, New York traded seldom-used lefty Sterling Hitchcock to the St. Louis Cardinals for minor league pitchers Justin Pope and Ben Julianel.

Hentgen (5-6) gave up three runs and six hits in 7⅔ innings, his second strong outing in a row against the powerful Yankees. The 1996 AL Cy Young winner is 4-1 with a 3.11 ERA in his last eight starts.

“Now that I have been in the rotation, I’ve just been able to try to be consistent,” Hentgen said. “Like I said, you catch some breaks, there’s some luck involved. I was able to make some mistakes and get away with it.”

Derek Jeter reached on Hentgen’s fielding error with two outs in the eighth, and Ryan walked Jason Giambi. But Ryan retired Bernie Williams to preserve the one-run lead, then got Hideki Matsui leading off the ninth.

Orioles closer Jorge Julio loaded the bases with two outs and was lifted by manager Mike Hargrove for the left-handed Groom. Joe Torre countered with a switch-hitter in Sierra, who flied out to right on the first pitch.

“This was a good situation for me — the whole game was there,” Sierra said. “The first pitch was right there. I just missed the ball. I actually hit it pretty hard, but he beat me. It moved just a little bit.”

Wells (12-4) missed his last scheduled start with a bad back and never looked comfortable in this one. The left-hander labored through seven innings, giving up four runs and 10 hits. He walked two and struck out four and left without speaking to reporters after the game.

“He wasn’t locating and there were some pitches he didn’t get. But physically, he was OK,” Torre said. “He was obviously frustrated with the outing and especially the fact that we gave him a couple of leads that he couldn’t hold.”

Fordyce, the No.9 batter, finished with three hits, including an RBI single and a double. Hentgen walked one and struck out four as the Orioles won for only the third time in their last 17 games against the Yankees.

“When was the last short outing he had?” Fordyce said. “He battles. He’s a competitor. That’s why he’s been around so many years.”

Soriano led off the game with a single, and Johnson followed with his second homer in two games and 10th of the season.

With two outs in the second, the Orioles tied it with four straight two-strike hits off Wells — including RBI singles by Fordyce and Brian Roberts.

“He was a little rusty, probably,” Yankees catcher Jorge Posada said of Wells. “But he settled down and made some good pitches later on. I thought they had good at-bats against him in some situations, especially with two strikes. They were tough. We couldn’t put them away.”

Soriano connected for his 27th homer in the third, giving the Yankees a 3-2 lead.

Fordyce hit Wells’ first pitch of the fifth over the left-field fence for his sixth homer.

Jay Gibbons singled leading off the sixth for Baltimore, then scored two outs later on Cruz’s double to the left-center gap.

Notes — Hitchcock was 1-3 with a 5.44 ERA in 27 games. He’s in the final year of a two-year, $12million contract, but has made only one start. … Tim Raines Jr., called up from Class AAA Ottawa, started in left field for Baltimore and went 1-for-4. … Jeter had two hits, extending his hitting streak to 12 games. … Running on the pitch, Jeff Conine was doubled off first on Gibbons’ fly to left in the third. … Wells has walked 16 batters in 24 games this season, including one relief appearance. … Hentgen improved to 7-11 lifetime in 24 games against the Yankees. … Wells dropped to 12-9 career against Baltimore, one of his former teams.

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