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May 28, 2004

by Larry Mahnken

Just in case you were wondering, Oriole Park at Camden Yards has decreased run scoring for the Orioles and their opponents eight consecutive seasons. If these games had been played in, say, Kansas City, then we would have seen some real run scoring!

Yesterday didn't start out too well for the Yankees. As Sidney Ponson more or less breezed through the first four innings (a single and a walk to start the second was immediately followed by a double play to kill the rally), Jose Contreras was pitching his way into trouble. A pair of two-out homers by Miguel Tejada and Raffy Palmeiro in the third put Baltimore up 3-0 going into the fifth.

Godzilla led off the fith with a single to left-center, and Tony Clark followed Bernie's fly-out with a single of his own, sending Matsui to third. Enrique Wilson hit a sac fly, and the Yankees were on the board.

But they didn't stop there, Kenny Lofton singled to right, and Derek Jeter crushed a ball off the left-centerfield wall, and the game was tied.

Two pitches later, the Yankees were in the lead, when Alex Rodriguez topped Jeter with an opposite field homer. Sheffield singled, Posada singled, Matsui doubled to score two more runs, Bernie singled to score him, and suddenly it was 8-3.

Contreras responded by walking Palmeiro on five pitches, but settled down to hold the Orioles at 3 through six innings. In the seventh, the Yankees exploded again, tacking on six more runs and more or less sealing the victory.

But the first two baserunners reached against Contreras in the bottom of the seventh, and he was done for the night.

The Yanks put up another three in the eighth, and one more in the ninth to total 41 for the series, matching their total from the 2002 series in Colorado, which is a slightly better hitters' park than Camden.

While Contreras didn't pitch very poorly, he didn't pitch that well, either, and with slightly worse luck would have been knocked out of the game early. While the Yanks got the sweep, the only good pitching they got out of the series was from Lieber, Gordon and Rivera.

But the biggest positives from this series were Derek Jeter, Hideki Matsui and Gary Sheffield. Sheff hit .500, Matsui was 6 for 9 with 6 walks and a HBP, and Jeter was 7 for 15, raising his batting average 22 points in two days, getting over .210 for the first time since the series before The Sweep. I think I already declared the slump over a few weeks ago, so maybe I shouldn't do it this time... but 22 points in two days!

Matsui is having a month that's not quite comparable to his June last year, but has still been great. He's turned into a very disciplined hitter, walking more than he strikes out, is hitting the ball in the air more (though he's still a ground ball hitter), and only has one GIDP this year.

I'd say more, but it's 2am, and I'm barely awake.