Damon's 10th-inning HR helps Yanks squeak past O's

BALTIMORE (AP) -- The New York Yankees were without their two best home-run hitters, so Johnny Damon took it upon himself to become a slugger with the game hanging in the balance.

Damon homered off Chris Ray leading off the 10th inning and the shorthanded Yankees beat the Baltimore Orioles 6-5 on Saturday.

Jason Giambi (15 homers) and Alex Rodriguez (13) were sidelined with a stomach virus, and the Yankees were also without Gary Sheffield and Hideki Matsui, both of whom are on the disabled list.

Thus, when Damon stepped to the plate against Ray (1-2) in the 10th, the Yankees' leadoff hitter wasn't interested in just getting on base. He was looking for a pitch to drive over the wall, and he got it: a 1-1 fastball at the knees.

"I think that might be the best swing of my 12-year career," Damon said in a decidedly upbeat clubhouse. "It wasn't a bad pitch, he kept it down, but just the way the ball took off the bat, a low liner, against the wind too, I think that might have been my best swing."

Timely, too.

"I don't hit too many home runs to center field," Damon said. "It was definitely the right situation."

That gave the Yankees the lead, but New York was also without closer Mariano Rivera, who probably won't pitch this weekend because of a bad back. So manager Joe Torre turned to Chien-Ming Wang to get the final two outs.

Wang got an out and then gave up a couple singles before retiring Javy Lopez on a flyball to earn his first major-league save.

"It couldn't have worked out any better for us," Torre said.

And so, despite playing without four offensive stars and their star closer, the Yankees won for the seventh time in eight games.

"We've got a lot of people contributing right now. The young guys that have come up are doing a great job," said Derek Jeter, who had two hits and an RBI. "Our pitching staff is doing great, we still have a makeshift bullpen with Mo out, but everyone is playing their part. You have to try to find ways to get it done when guys aren't healthy."

Said Damon: "I think you have to give a lot of credit to the players who were here before, like Jorge Posada and Derek Jeter, Bernie Williams, but also Joe Torre. He's doing a great job moving guys in the lineup, giving them opportunities."

Williams drove in three runs and Andy Phillips homered for the Yankees, who wasted a fine performance by Randy Johnson.

Johnson allowed only three hits -- one after the first inning -- before being lifted in the eighth with New York up 5-3.

Scott Proctor came in after Johnson walked Brian Roberts with one out. The reliever retired Melvin Mora, but Miguel Tejada
followed with an RBI double and Ramon Hernandez tied it with a double to left-center.

The 42-year-old Johnson struck out eight and walked three. It was his second straight impressive outing: On Monday, he blanked Detroit on two hits over six innings.

Proctor (2-1), who struck out three in 1 2/3 innings, got the win.

Hernandez went 3-for-4 with a homer and three RBI for the Orioles, who committed a season-high three errors.

"The good thing is we keep getting ourselves in position to win," Baltimore manager Sam Perlozzo said. "Sooner or later, someone's going to get the big base hit to put us over the hump."

Baltimore rookie Adam Loewen, making his first major-league start, gave up three earned runs, six hits and four walks in five innings. He left with the Orioles trailing 4-3.

"It felt good to go out there and pitch five innings and keep my team in the game," the left-hander said. "Most of their hits weren't hard, but they made me work hard on every pitch."

New York got an unearned run in the first inning when Williams hit an RBI single after Tejada fumbled Posada's two-out grounder to shortstop.

Baltimore took a 3-1 lead in the bottom half. Tejada hit an RBI single before Hernandez drove a 1-2 pitch into the left-field seats -- the team-high 12th homer allowed by Johnson this season.

Williams drove in a run with a groundout in the third, and the Yankees went up 4-3 in the fifth. Melky Cabrera singled and scored on a double by Jeter, who stole third and scored on a sacrifice fly by Williams.

Phillips hit his second homer in two games, off Sendy Rleal, in
the seventh.

Game notes
New York outfielder Kevin Thompson, penciled into the lineup after Giambi was a late scratch, went 1-for-4 with a walk in his major-league debut. ... The game drew a crowd of 48,195, the second
sellout of the series and the Orioles' third this season. ... New York has led in each of its last 14 games, and have had at least 10 hits in 10 straight games for the first time since 1937. ... The Yankees stranded 13 runners.