- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 3, 2004

NEW YORK — Thanks to the cooperative Baltimore Orioles, the New York Yankees are beginning to realize just how good they are.

Gary Sheffield snapped a seventh-inning tie with a two-out double, and Javier Vazquez pitched New York to a 5-2 victory yesterday as the Yankees beat the Orioles for the sixth straight time in a nine-day span. Alex Rodriguez drove in a run and scored for the surging Yankees, who have won nine of 10 to open a season-high 21/2-game lead over Boston in the American League East. Their 33-19 record is the best in the majors.

“We just feel like we can win every ballgame,” Sheffield said. “Somebody is going to get the big hit.”

The Yankees now have won eight straight games against the Orioles over two seasons and 45 of the past 62 meetings since 1997.

Javy Lopez homered for the Orioles, who have been outscored 59-31 in their six losses to New York this season.

“They’re still better than us,” Orioles first baseman Rafael Palmeiro said.

Miguel Cairo singled leading off the seventh against John Parrish (3-2). Derek Jeter was hit by a pitch one out later, and Sheffield’s two-run double into the right-field corner off B.J. Ryan gave New York a 4-2 lead.

“This is the best I’ve felt all year,” said Sheffield, who is hitting .289 with six homers and 33 RBI. “This is the game you want the most out of the whole series. The third one is the hardest.”

Hideki Matsui added an RBI single, a one-hop smash off Palmeiro’s arm at first base.

Vazquez (6-4) won his third straight start, allowing two runs and five hits in seven innings. Tom Gordon pitched a hitless eighth before Mariano Rivera got three straight outs for his 21st save in 22 chances and third of the series. Bubba Crosby led off the first with a single and scored on Rodriguez’s single. In the second, Lopez hit his seventh homer.

The key sequence came in the fourth, after the Orioles loaded the bases with none out on three straight singles. Vazquez hit Lopez with a 2-2 pitch, forcing in a run, and pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre came out to calm the right-hander.

“He was as upset as I’ve seen him all year. He was very upset at himself,” Stottlemyre said. “We all lose it momentarily at times. I just wanted to make sure there wasn’t any carry-over.”

Not at all. Vazquez escaped further damage when B.J. Surhoff popped out, Luis Matos struck out and Larry Bigbie grounded out.

“When I’m in a jam I just try to concentrate on the hitter, not on the men I have on base,” Vazquez said. “It was a huge inning for me.”

The Orioles knew they had missed their big chance — and they didn’t get another hit the rest of the way.

New York tied it 2-2 in the sixth when Rodriguez led off with a double and scored on Ruben Sierra’s high-chop double over Palmeiro.

Notes — Making his fifth major league start, Baltimore’s Daniel Cabrera allowed two runs and six hits in six innings. … Rodriguez has reached base safely in a career-high 41 consecutive games, the longest streak in the majors this season.

and the longest by a Yankee since Bernie Williams’ 42-game run in 2001. … It was New York’s 22nd come-from-behind win.

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