Hernandez lifts O's past Yanks
Catcher's bases-loaded walk clinches victory in opener
BALTIMORE -- Ramon Hernandez had the red mark on his arm to prove he got hit, but he didn't have the go-ahead from the man in blue. The Orioles' catcher was in the middle of some bases-loaded drama in the ninth inning on Tuesday night, when he claimed to be hit by a pitch and wound up drawing a walk to send home the decisive run in a 3-2 win over the Yankees.
Hernandez pointed to a spot between his forearm and elbow after the game, and he agreed that the home-plate umpire's opinion is the only one that matters. But having said that, the veteran added that he wouldn't just argue for show. Sure, he wanted to win the game -- but more to the point, he felt that he had already done so and had been deprived of his rightful RBI.
"It really gets you hot, because you should've won the game right there," Hernandez said. "Now you keep having your at-bat, and I might ground out for a double play. You're just trying to stay calm, don't strike out and try not to hit a ground ball."
The replay appeared to underscore his point, but one could see why home-plate umpire Rob Drake would disagree. There was no huge deflection -- if anything, it was more of a subtle brush. Still, after arguing for a few moments, Hernandez regained his composure and worked a walk off reliever Scott Proctor to seal the win and break Baltimore's two-game skid.
Baltimore's fastest baserunner, Corey Patterson, probably could've scored on the pitch that appeared to hit Hernandez, but he got caught up in the moment like everyone else. The burden fell to Hernandez to work the count and win the game.
"I think it's called poise," said interim manager Dave Trembley of Hernandez. "The guy's been around the block. These guys have a way. ... That's why they're Major League baseball players. They have a way of focusing and regrouping and getting their attention on the present and not worrying about the past. I think if we all do that, it'll be a whole lot more fun to play."
Baltimore (33-43) had to work hard just to get that point, and closer Chris Ray had to conquer his mental block against the Yankees. Four of the relief ace's 12 career losses have come against New York, and he almost added to that pile. Ray (4-5) walked two batters in the top of the ninth but rallied to get two key ground balls to end the threat and hold the tie.
The Orioles got their first two men on in the bottom half, but Proctor (1-5) made a sprawling catch on a bunt to hold the runners at first-and-second. One walk later, Hernandez engaged in his game-changing plate appearance. There were no strong opinions in New York's clubhouse as to whether he was hit or not, and the Orioles clung to their side of the story.
"We thought it hit Ramon," Trembley said. "That's not the explanation I got from Rob Drake, but we thought it hit Ramon. In fact, it doesn't matter now. ... We'll take the win."
For the first time in eight starts, Jeremy Guthrie wasn't able to complete seven innings. He fell two outs shy of that milestone Tuesday -- his shortest start since May 8 -- and earned his seventh no-decision in his last nine outings. The right-hander was rarely challenged in the first five innings, when he gave up two hits and didn't allow a runner to reach scoring position.
"That's a very tough lineup," he said of New York, one of the American League's top hitting teams. "You can't let down. Miguel [Cairo] was in the nine-spot, and I think he was 2-for-2. One through nine, you have to be very focused and make good pitches or they can string together some hits and runs. It's definitely one of the top lineups in all of baseball.
New York (36-38) caught up in the sixth, courtesy of a two-run home run by leadoff man Johnny Damon. Guthrie, who's normally a power pitcher, got 10 outs on ground balls and six on strikeouts. Guthrie still ranks second in the league in ERA (2.45) and stands a strong chance of being selected as Baltimore's only representative on the American League All-Star team.
"I voted for him," said Trembley, who took over for Sam Perlozzo last week. "I think he's without a doubt one of the pleasant surprises in Major League Baseball this year. Where this guy's come from, what he's done, what he's meant to this team. Stop and think where we'd be without all the quality starts he's given us. How deep in the game ... he's saved the bullpen a lot. "
"It would be a huge honor. It would probably be the highlight of my career," added Guthrie. "When we voted to pick five starters -- that's what they asked us to do -- there were six guys that came to mind. ... It would be a huge honor, but I think [teammates] Brian [Roberts] and Erik [Bedard] have shown that they're obviously very deserving. We'll see what happens."
The Orioles were all over the basepaths against Andy Pettitte but couldn't break through. Baltimore scored on a groundout in the third and a single in the fourth, but left two runners on base in the fourth and the bases loaded in the fifth. Pettitte walked two straight batters in the latter rally, but first baseman Kevin Millar ended the threat on a first-pitch pop up.
Despite being unable to tack on add-on runs, Baltimore prevailed in front of one of the largest crowds of the season.
"The good crowd didn't energize us," Guthrie said of the pro-Yankee audience. "They got real loud when I was giving up runs and hits to the Yankees. The crowd didn't energize us as much as it did the other squad."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.