04/28/10 12:37 AM ET
O's rally past Yankees for first home win
Three-run sixth inning preserved by stellar relief effort
By Brittany Ghiroli / MLB.com
"Yeah, that's a good word," Jones said with a smile.
It's been a foreign phrase for the Orioles this season, but as manager Dave Trembley so aptly put it, Tuesday's game was a night for firsts.
The O's won their first game at home this season, recording their first two-game win streak with a 5-2, series-opening victory over the Yankees in front of a crowd of 20,536 at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
Baltimore won its first series opener this year, improving to 4-16 and doubling its win total in its first two games this week. And the O's did it thanks to a pair of unconventional heroes -- Rhyne Hughes and Alfredo Simon -- neither of whom was on the team's Opening Day roster.
"We ended up making some good plays and getting some big hits," Trembley said. "We finally got some two-out hits and we found a way to win."
And it ended with Simon on the mound, collecting his first career save less than a year removed from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow.
Given the Orioles' injury-depleted bullpen -- without closer Mike Gonzalez and reliever Koji Uehara -- Trembley has made it clear there are no roles in the 'pen. No closer, no setup man, no magic formula except this: if you can get outs, you'll get the ball.
Even by those standards, sending Simon -- who had his contract purchased just hours prior to the game -- out to the hill for the ninth inning seemed like a risky move. Only Trembley didn't quite see it that way.
"I had nothing to lose putting Simon in," Trembley said. "I talked to him before the game and I asked him one question and one question only: 'Are you scared?' And he said, 'No.' And that's all I had to hear."
Simon came on in the ninth inning tasked with protecting the Orioles' three-run lead and established himself right away with a strikeout of Curtis Granderson. He allowed a hit to Nick Swisher and issued a full-count walk to Nick Johnson to bring Yankees captain Derek Jeter to the plate. A power pitcher, Simon used a fastball that topped at 97 mph to set up a 91-mph slider and send Jeter down swinging for the inning's second out.
"I don't think there's fear in his body," Jones said of Simon. "He's a big dude ... and he went in there and he threw strikes."
Simon nearly ended the game with Brett Gardner's ensuing grounder, a play so routine that Jones admitted he had already started running back to the dugout. But Gardner's ball eluded shortstop Cesar Izturis, allowing Swisher to score.
"Every time we give [the other team] a chance, it's like, 'Oh no here, we go again,'" said Izturis, who described the play as the ball simply taking a bad hop.
The Yankees closed the lead to one with Mark Teixeira's hit, but that's as close as they would get. Late-game replacement Julio Lugo made a stop up the middle on Alex Rodriguez's ball and shuffled it to Izturis to beat Teixeira by a half-step and end the game.
It wasn't pretty, particularly given the way the ball has bounced for the Orioles this season. But the hair-raising final few outs were nothing new for the battle-tested O's, who have been on the wrong end of nine games decided by two runs or fewer.
"I think [with] all the other stuff we've gone through the previous 19 games, the ninth inning was a piece of cake," Trembley said.
Given the Orioles' much-maligned offense with runners in scoring position, getting there with a three-run lead was a rare indulgence.
The missing timely hitting appeared against Yankees reliever David Robertson with two outs in the sixth inning. After Boone Logan -- on to replace starter Phil Hughes -- walked the only batter he faced, Robertson hit Ty Wigginton with a pitch, and red-hot rookie Hughes delivered an RBI single to score Luke Scott. Nolan Reimold followed with a rocket down the third-base line to score Wigginton and put the Orioles up, 4-2.
Since being recalled Saturday, Hughes is hitting .385 in his first three Major League games, delivering an RBI in each one.
"I don't know if it's hit him where he's at; he just wants to hit," Trembley said.
"And that's the beauty of the game. Somebody always can step up. Somebody always can do something special. Never count anybody out. That's why I don't count this team out."
With the Yankees' Hughes struggling early, Scott and Wigginton opened the bottom of the second inning with a pair of singles, and one out later Reimold, walked on five pitches to load the bases. Hughes issued a four-pitch walk to Izturis to score the game's first run, but Jones grounded into a double play to end the frame. The Orioles squandered a leadoff walk in the fourth and allowed Hughes to battle through 5 2/3 innings -- allowing just the second-inning score -- despite four walks.
Orioles starter Kevin Millwood also ran up a high pitch count, allowing a run in the third and surrendering a first-pitch homer to Jorge Posada to open the fourth inning. He exited with one out in the sixth and was followed by Alberto Castillo, who tied a career high with three strikeouts over 1 2/3 scoreless innings. Although Millwood got a no-decision, the veteran has been victim to poor run support and the team had yet to win a game he started. Fortunately, that changed Tuesday.
"We all know that these guys can hit and they're going to score some runs. It's just been a struggle up to this point," Millwood said. "We swung the bats well in Boston and we started out this homestand swinging the bats well. I think we're all excited to see how this thing turns around a little bit."
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.