Comeback Kids

For the second night in a row in Baltimore, the Yankees overcame a late-inning deficit to nail down a victory. This time, Aaron Boone connected on a go-ahead three-run homerun that just cleared the foul pole in left. Boone's first blast as a Yankee lifted the Bombers over the Orioles by a score of 6-4.

Friday night's game was quite the pitcher's duel heading into the final innings. Roger Clemens carried a shutout into seventh inning, and Baltimore's Jason Johnson made just one mistake over the course of the whole game.

But all that changed in the eighth.

With the Yankees ahead 2-1 thanks to Bernie Williams' two-run homerun in the third, Roger Clemens retired Luis Matos to start the bottom of the eighth inning. Jesse Orosco came in to face the left-handed B.J. Surhoff, but allowed a double to put the tying run in scoring position. Jay Gibbons stepped to the dish and slapped a single to right that score pinch runner Jose Morban and tied the game at two.

Jeff Nelson relieved Surhoff and, after retiring Tony Batista on a flyout, served up a double to Larry Bigbie that scored Gibbons to give Baltimore the lead. Deivi Cruz struck out to end the inning and the Yankees came to bat in the ninth desperately needing runs.

With one out, Jorge Posada singled to center to kick off the Yankee rally. Posada has been on fire lately, batting .481 over his last six games. He picked up three more hits on Friday to bring his season average all the way up to .274. Enrique Wilson pinch ran for the catcher and stole second base while Nick Johnson drew a walk.

Boone stepped up to the plate and, after just missing a double by a few inches down the right field line, cracked a homerun just inside the pole in left. Third base umpire Jeff Nelson called the ball foul, prompting Boone – who had started circling the bases – to bolt over and argue. The umpires convened to discuss it, and the play was ruled a homerun. Replays showed that the ball was clearly fair, but Baltimore manager Mike Hargrove came out to argue and was ejected for his tirade.

With the Yankees back on top 5-3, and now with two outs in the ninth, Alfonso Soriano ripped a solo homerun to left field off of Jorge Julio to give the Yankees some extra breathing room. It was Soriano's first homerun since July 19, and it turned out that the Yankees would need that breathing room.

Mariano Rivera came on to work the ninth and served up a towering homerun to Jack Cust that cut the lead to two. Brook Fordyce followed that with a single and things started to look grim. One out later, Luis Matos singled to put runners at the corners. Jose Leon bounced a pitch back to the mound which Rivera fielded, but Matos moved to second base.

With two runners in scoring position, Gibbons came up again. But Rivera got him to ground out to the mound as well, ending the game and giving Rivera his 25th save of the year.

Nelson (4-2) picked up the win in relief by throwing 2/3 of an inning and allowing a hit. Clemens pitched brilliantly, allowing just one run on five hits and three walks over 7 1/3 and striking out five, but was denied a decision.

Jorge Julio (0-5) was charged with the loss after allowing four runs on three hits and a pair of walks in just 2/3 of an inning. Johnson was denied a victory as well, despite allowing just two runs over seven innings.

The Yankees have now won the first two games of the four-game series. Game three is on Saturday at 7:05 pm. Sterling Hitchcock (1-3, 4.98) will get his first start of 2003, filling in for the injured David Wells. Pat Hentgen (4-6, 4.50) will take the mound for the Orioles.

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