Roar from 34 offers a recap of the game's final, memorable moments
by Matthew Taylor
Orioles 10, Yankees 9
It had become a game where each at-bat could deliver the multifaceted evening's final, defining storyline. The Orioles laid waste to the "Damn Yankees" narrative in the bottom of the 11th inning with Aubrey Huff's game-tying double. With Huff now on third, advancing an extra base on Derek Jeter's relay home, it seemed the next solid crack of timber would become the most telling in the game's re-telling.
The winning run creeped closer to the plate as Huff took his lead from third base. Luke Scott dug in against LaTroy Hawkins, ready to offer the game's writers an easy out should he deliver Huff home. One week ago, to the very day were it not for the clock having already passed midnight, the emotional pitcher, Hawkins, threw too high, too tight, too intentional for Scott to allow the moment to pass without an exchange of less-than-pleasantries. This night's pitches likewise had meaning, though of a different variety; a free pass was issued. Scott took his base the easy way and the revenge motif jogged its way down the first base line.
Kevin Millar strode to the dish. Here again was a good story waiting to be told. A third round tripper by the aging veteran and de facto team leader would be best, turning an ordinary spring game into an unforgettable Orioles moment, one forever committed to fans' memory banks and to the team's highlight reels. Instead, Hawkins offered another intentional walk, setting up the force at home and a potential double play. The echoes of one fan's exhortations could be heard on the game's broadcast, an encouragement to Millar to take a cut instead of a free pass.
Thus it fell to Alex Cintron to cap an evening where the Birds, having twice rallied from four-run deficits, having outlasted the rain and Yankee closer Mariano Rivera, put together one final push to secure an 11-inning, 10-9 victory. The dramatic contest ended with the team's reserve shortstop delivering what was officially a single but in truth served as a glorified sacrifice fly with the outfield playing shallow to cut down the winning run at the plate. For all of its individual dramatic moments, the run-on sentence of a game that stretched from Tuesday into Wednesday fittingly ended with a period rather than a exclamation point.
The second game of the Orioles' three-game set with the Yankees would not allow itself to be reduced to an individual moment. And rightly so. The gritty, go-down-fighting Birds gutted out another morale-boosting win, this one made greater by its timing and by the uniforms worn by the vanquished opponent. Images told the story better than words, with Ramon Hernandez's extra-inning belly flop into second base and an exhausted Melvin Mora's tumbling dive to the plate with the tying run serving as appropriate, metaphoric visuals for the team's effort.
Baseball may not hand out any trophies in May, but the game does deliver its share of small, memorable victories. For one Spring night, the O's rewarded their fans' patience.
[Image source: The New York Times (click link for original photo)]