Oh What A Night

The stars shone on Friday at Yankee Stadium, and some less-bright stars shone just as brightly. The Yanks and Orioles split a double-header, but that wasn't the fun part. Andy Pettitte won his 21st game, Jorge Posada hit his 30th homerun, Jorge DePaula almost pitched a perfect game and the Yankees "B" Team fell just short of pulling out a win in the nightcap. The Yanks took game one, 11-2 but then lost the second tilt 3-2 in extra innings.

The first game was a power display for the Yankees, as they pounded Baltimore starter Damian Moss (1-5) for nine runs in five innings, almost all of which came via the long ball.

Juan Rivera got the party started with a two-run homerun in the second inning that opened up the scoring. Alfonso Soriano led off the next inning with a solo homerun, his 37th of the season, that gave the Yanks a 3-0 lead.

One out later, and after Moss had hit Derek Jeter and Jason Giambi back-to-back, Jorge Posada connected on his career-best 30th homerun of the season. The catcher pumped his fist and rounded the bases. The blast tied the Yankees record for homeruns by a catcher, which is also held by Yogi Berra who hit 30 dingers twice in his career.

Another out later and Aaron Boone took his turn teeing off against Moss. The Yankees had given Pettitte a nice seven run lead, and it would be much more than enough.

Pettitte (21-8) lasted five innings in his final tune-up before the playoffs. He allowed six hits and a walk and one unearned run. He fanned three batters while throwing 89 pitches. Pettitte matched his career-high in wins, which he set in 1996. Felix Heredia and Antonio Osuna pitched the final four innings. Osuna allowed another unearned run.

Moss took the loss, allowing nine runs in five innings on nine hits. He struck out two and didn't walk a batter.

The Yanks scored two more runs on Boone's two-RBI double in the fifth. Boone added an RBI single in the seventh to end his 3/3 performance.

Game two featured almost the entire Yankees bench inserted into the starting lineup. Fernando Seguignol started at first base, Drew Henson was at third, Erick Almonte got the call at shortstop, and Michel Hernandez started behind the dish.

The baby Yanks managed to put on a show in the first inning against Baltimore's Jorge Julio. Almonte led off the inning with a single to the wall in right field. After Luis Sojo popped out to second base, Ruben Sierra lifted a long homerun to centerfield to give the Yanks a 2-0 lead.

For a while, it seemed that the two runs would be plenty for DePaula – who was making his first major-league start. Five innings into the game DePaula had retired the Orioles in order. The 24-year old Dominican native used a mix of off-speed pitches to set up his fastball, and he threw a slider that the Orioles couldn't handle.

Jack Cust broke up the perfecto by drawing a walk with one out in the sixth inning, but DePaula managed to keep the no-hitter intact for another inning. With one out in the seventh, Larry Bigbie slapped a single up the middle for a clean base-hit. Joe Torre immediately removed DePaula who, having given the Yanks more than they could have dreamed of, exited the game to a standing ovation.

Unfortunately for DePaula, he would be denied his first win when the bullpen couldn't hold onto the lead. Gabe White finished off the seventh without incident, but ran into trouble in the eighth.

With two outs and a runner on, Jeff Nelson relieved White to hold the Orioles down. He walked Pedro Swann and then gave up a hit to Jerry Hairston Jr that got past centerfielder Karim Garcia and went to the wall. Tim Raines Jr and Swann scored to tie the game, but Hairston was caught trying to score from third to end the inning.

The Orioles untied the game in the tenth inning against Chris Hammond. BJ Surhoff reached first on an error by Almonte, and Jose Morban – who pinch ran for Surhoff – advanced to second on Deivi Cruz' sacrifice. Robert Machado singled to left field to give Baltimore the lead.

Jorge Julio worked out of trouble in the bottom of the inning, striking out Bernie Williams with two runners on to end the game and earn his 36th save.

Kerry Ligtenberg (4-2) got the win for the Orioles, pitching 2/3 innings of scoreless relief. Hammond (3-2) took the loss for New York.

The win in the first game and Oakland's loss to Seattle ensured home-field advantage for the Yankees throughout the playoffs.

The Yanks play their penultimate game on Saturday at 4:05 pm. Roger Clemens (16-9, 3.94) will make the final start of his career against Baltimore's Jason Johnson (10-9, 4.05).

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