BALTIMORE (AP) -- Alex Rodriguez's eyes darted to the television
screen as reporters gathered around his locker in the New York
Instead of fielding a question, he asked one.
"What inning is it?" he inquired.
Moments after the Yankees beat the Baltimore Orioles 2-1
Wednesday night, Rodriguez and his teammates rushed off the field
to find out if the victory thrust New York into sole possession of
first place in the AL East, one game ahead of Boston.
After Manny Ramirez made the final out for the Red Sox in a 7-2
loss to Toronto, there was no commotion in the New York clubhouse.
Just a feeling of satisfaction that will last at least until
Thursday night's game against Baltimore.
"It doesn't mean anything unless you come in and play well
tomorrow," Rodriguez said. "It's obviously better to have a
one-game lead than a tie, but we still have to come out here and
play an important game tomorrow night."
Rodriguez hit a milestone homer, Derek Jeter singled in the
tiebreaking run in the seventh inning, and the Yankees used a fine
pitching performance by Shawn Chacon to get past the Orioles.
Boston and New York meet in a three-game series beginning Friday
night. The Yankees' victory Wednesday means New York will need no
more than two wins at Fenway Park to capture the division crown.
"There's no comfort. We know what the Boston Red Sox are all
about. We saw what they did last year. That's very clear in our
minds," Rodriguez said, referring to Boston's comeback against New
York in the ALCS last October on the way to a World Series title.
One night after the Yankees and Orioles combined for 26 runs and
26 hits, the teams locked up in a tense pitching duel that turned
in New York's favor in the latter innings.
First, Rodriguez hit his 47th homer off Daniel Cabrera (10-13)
to tie it at 1 in the sixth. The shot broke Joe DiMaggio's
single-season club record for home runs by a right-handed batter,
set in 1937.
New York went up 2-1 in the seventh. After Jorge Posada hit a
leadoff single and Cabrera hit Bernie Williams with a pitch,
Robinson Cano moved the runners up with a sacrifice bunt against
Tim Byrdak. Jeter then hit an opposite-field single to right off
"Any way you can get it done now," Jeter said. "Robbie put
down a good bunt to get the runners over. It seems like every
at-bat is important at this point in the year."
Rodriguez followed with a fly ball to right. Bernie Williams
tagged from third, but was thrown out on a precise throw by Jay
Gibbons in a close play at the plate.
Chacon (7-3) allowed one run and four hits in 6 2/3 innings. Tom
Gordon held the lead for Mariano Rivera, who got three quick outs
for his 43rd save.
Baltimore has lost 10 of 11, and this one really stung interim
manager Sam Perlozzo.
"I'm not happy about this loss, OK? For multiple reasons. You
can guess yourself," he said, tersely.
Although he didn't say it, much of his anger was directed at the
strike zone of plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt.
"There were a few pitches, in my opinion, the umpire missed,"
catcher Javy Lopez said. "That's when the rally really started.
Instead of getting a strikeout, there was a base hit. There were a
few like that."
Lopez put the Orioles ahead 1-0 in the second inning by driving
a 2-0 fastball into the left-field seats. It was his 14th homer,
and second in two games.
Lopez doubled in the fourth to put runners on second and third
with two outs, but Chacon retired Luis Matos on a popup.
Cabrera breezed through the first five innings, giving up two
hits and two walks without allowing a runner past first base. All
that changed in the sixth, when Rodriguez connected on an 0-1 pitch
to tie it and break DiMaggio's long-standing record.
"The win, obviously, is the most important thing right now,"
Rodriguez said. "The record is certainly something I'll think
about once this whole thing is over. The home run was at a huge
point in the game; Cabrera had us dazzled there for five or six
innings. It was good to tie it up and get some momentum."
In the bottom half, Melvin Mora drew a leadoff walk and reached
third with two outs before B.J. Surhoff bounced out to third.
Rodriguez's homer was New York's 223rd, tying the 2002 club
for fourth-most in Yankees history. The club record is 242, set
last year. ... Lopez has at least one hit in 40 of 55 games since
coming off the disabled list (broken hand) on July 25.