Damon, Cano combine to lift Yanks past struggling O's

NEW YORK (AP) -- Once Johnny Damon and the New York Yankees saw Erik Bedard leave, it was time to break out the big bats.

Damon hit a tying home run off a familiar victim and Robinson Cano sliced an RBI double in the seventh inning as the Yankees battered Baltimore's beleaguered bullpen and sent the Orioles to their fifth straight loss, 6-3 on Tuesday night.

Yankees right-hander Carl Pavano threw four scoreless innings for Class-A Tampa in a rehab start. He has not pitched in the majors since June 2005 and had surgery last May for a bone chip above his right elbow.

"This was a big win because you beat one of their best pitchers," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "We didn't beat him, but we won the game he pitched."

Third baseman Melvin Mora's leaping catch -- which sent him for X-rays on his left thumb -- helped Bedard exit with a 3-1 lead after six innings.

But Baltimore relievers have the worst ERA in the AL, and the Yankees were only too glad to tee off. Damon's drive made him 11-for-25 (.440) with four home runs lifetime against LaTroy Hawkins.

"I know what he's got. I've just been lucky," Damon said. "I was cheating for a fastball and I got it. It was a fastball up, just like the one I swung through on the first pitch."

The Orioles matched their longest losing streak of the season.

"We need to get a little better in our bullpen pitching," manager Sam Perlozzo said.

The Yankees increased their AL East lead over Boston to three games, with the teams heading toward a five-game series at Fenway Park this weekend.

"We can't worry about Boston now. We have to play Baltimore," Yankees star Derek Jeter said.

Melky Cabrera led off the seventh with a single against Hawkins (1-2) and Damon followed with his 17th homer. Damon hasn't faced the Baltimore right-hander since their days in the rookie Gulf Coast League and connected again.

"He knows there are certain pitchers he can take liberties with," Torre said.

One out later, Bobby Abreu doubled. With two outs, Cano doubled off Tim Byrdak for the lead.

The Yankees added a pair of insurance runs in the eighth when Damon hit an RBI triple and scored on Jeter's sacrifice fly off Chris Britton.

Scott Proctor (5-3) pitched 1 2/3 scoreless innings and Mariano Rivera worked the ninth for his 31st save in 34 chances.

The Yankees improved to 7-3 against Baltimore, and the teams meet eight more times this year.

Kevin Millar homered and the Orioles took advantage of another error by third baseman Alex Rodriguez to grab a 3-0 lead against Mike Mussina.

The Yankees began their comeback on Rodriguez's RBI single in the sixth. Mora preserved the lead when he jumped to backhand Jorge Posada's bases-loaded shot down the line.

Mora took off his glove, shook his hand as he brought the ball to the mound and left the game.

"It feels better. We'll have to wait until tomorrow," he said.

The Orioles missed a chance to break it open when they failed to score after loading the bases with one out in the seventh. That gave the Yankees the opportunity they needed.

"It's never over for the Yankees," Mora said.

Millar broke a scoreless tie in the fifth with his 10th home run and the Orioles scored twice more in the sixth. Brian Roberts
opened with a double, Mora singled and Jay Gibbons hit an RBI single with one out.

Jeff Conine followed with a grounder that could've become an inning-ending double play, but Rodriguez hurried and bobbled the ball. He rushed a wide throw to first, and his 21st error of the season allowed a run to score.

Rodriguez made his seventh error of the year while Mussina was pitching, matching the most in the majors for any fielder behind one pitcher, the Elias Sports Bureau said. Colorado third baseman Garrett Atkins has made seven with Jeff Francis on the mound.

Game notes
Rodriguez's single made him 7-for-14 with the bases loaded this season. ... Jeter and Mora had some fun in the sixth. After Mora moved up to second on a foul ball that deflected off plate
umpire Wally Bell's mask, Jeter playfully pushed him back to first. ... Yankees right-hander Carl Pavano threw four scoreless innings for Class-A Tampa in a rehab start. He has not pitched in the majors since June 2005 and had surgery last May for a bone chip above his right elbow.