BALTIMORE (AP) -- The preliminaries are over. The New York
Yankees brushed aside Baltimore to preserve their lead in the AL
East, and now they're headed to Boston hoping to finish the job.
Aaron Small took a one-hitter into the seventh inning to improve
to 10-0, and the Yankees got homers from Jason Giambi and Hideki
Matsui in cruising past the Orioles 8-4 on Thursday night.
The victory enabled the Yankees to maintain a one-game advantage
in the division over the Red Sox, who rallied past Toronto 5-4. The
longtime rivals play three times at Fenway Park this weekend, and
two wins would give New York its eighth consecutive AL East crown.
"It'll be unbelievable. It's always a playoff atmosphere when
you play the Red Sox," Giambi said. "It will be a lot of fun."
Alex Rodriguez had two hits and scored twice for the Yankees,
who built an 8-0 lead in winning for the 15th time in 18 games.
After the victory, the Yankees watched the Red Sox beat Toronto,
which held a 4-1 lead in the fifth inning. When David Ortiz got the
game-winning hit, the Yankees began packing for their trip to
"You figured they would come back," Giambi said. "They're
hot, we're hot, so it should be a good series. You couldn't ask for
a better ending, no doubt about it."
Small gave up two runs and four hits in 6 2/3 innings, striking
out four and walking five. After breezing through the first six
innings, the right-hander gave up a two-run homer to Javy Lopez in
The Orioles then loaded the bases with two outs before Tanyon
Sturtze retired Chris Gomez on a grounder.
Small has won his last five starts, including two straight
against Baltimore. He has been nothing short of magnificent since
his recall from Triple-A Columbus on July 17.
"He's been a bonus, though that seems like such a mediocre
word," Yankees manager Joe Torre said.
Small said, "This is fun. I couldn't have scripted it this way.
I'm just hoping for a fairy tale ending at the end."
Lopez homered for the third time in three games, and Jay Gibbons
also connected for the Orioles, who have lost 11 of 12. Despite
losing its final home game, Baltimore is assured of finishing no
worse than fourth in the AL East due to Tampa Bay's 6-0 defeat in
But avoiding the cellar is not exactly what the Orioles had in
mind when they led the division on June 23.
"It's been a tough season," said interim manager Sam Perlozzo,
who expects to find out next week if he will be back in 2006. "I'd
like the fans to think that things are going to turn around. I'd
like for them to think good things about us for next year. That'll
be our job this winter, to give them some reasons to believe
New York took control in the first inning against Erik Bedard
(6-8), who needed 40 pitches to retire the side. After a walk to
Derek Jeter and a single by Rodriguez, Giambi drove a 3-2 pitch
over the 25-foot scoreboard onto Eutaw Street, a shot estimated at
Bedard then walked Gary Sheffield, who scored on a two-out
single by Ruben Sierra.
The Yankees made it 5-0 in the second when Robinson Cano hit a
leadoff double and scored on a two-out single by Sheffield.
Bedard allowed five runs, five hits and three walks in two
innings. After going 5-1 with a 2.08 ERA in his first nine games,
he returned from a two-month stint on the disabled list (knee) to
go 1-7 with a 5.44 ERA over his last 15 starts.
"I'm disappointed in his second half, but I'm totally
optimistic he's going to be just as good coming out of the chute
next year," Perlozzo said. "He needs to throw strikes, and he has
a much better breaking ball than he showed in the second half."
Small issued three straight two-out walks in the third before
striking out Melvin Mora on three pitches.
New York made it 6-0 in the fifth when Jorge Posada drew a
bases-loaded walk from James Baldwin. Matsui hit his 22nd homer in
the seventh, a two-run shot off Jorge Julio on a 3-0 pitch.
"Giambi got us off on the right foot and Matsui gave us a
padding that didn't seem like a big deal at the time, but turned
out to be huge," Torre said.
Gibbons hit his 25th with a runner on against Sturtze in the
eighth. Tom Gordon got two quick outs to end the inning, and Scott
Proctor worked a scoreless ninth -- allowing closer Mariano Rivera
to rest for the Boston series.
Small has not allowed a first-inning run in any of his nine
starts. ... Baltimore finished 36-45 at home and drew 2,624,740
fans. ... New York won the season series 11-7. ... Giambi's homer
was the 38th in the 14-year history of Camden Yards to reach Eutaw
Street, the first this year.