One of the key moments of the New York Yankees' rally for an 8-5 victory over the Orioles on Saturday came in the seventh inning and it caused the normally reserved Hideki Matsui to slam his bat to the ground in disgust.
Turns out, the pop-up that angered Matsui did not end a promising inning, falling in fair territory to tie the score and set up Ruben Sierra's winning three-run homer one pitch later.
It also gave Mariano Rivera a chance to come out of the bullpen and perhaps get on track after two blown saves against the Red Sox. Rivera pitched a scoreless, but not spotless, ninth for his first save.
Rivera had been booed off the mound on Wednesday when he was clobbered by Boston and had not pitched since while his problems were debated by team officials, fans and sportswriters. No one knows if his woes are gone now, but at least, as Joe Torre put it, he's made "step one."
Jason Giambi hit his first post-BALCO home run in the fourth inning, a drive on a 3-2 pitch from Bruce Chen that landed beyond the right-field fence.
With all that going on, Randy Johnson's struggles faded into the background. The Big Unit was wild and left after six innings, trailing, 5-3. He allowed eight hits and five runs (four earned). He hit one batter and also walked in a run in the fourth inning and at one point was behind, 5-1.
Asked to describe his performance, Johnson, who clearly had time to cool down, good-naturedly used a four-word phrase that would be unprintable.
"Outside of my performance, it was kinda Yankee-esque -- offense offense and Mo comes in and saves the game," Johnson said. Then, the Big Unit smiled -- "Yankee-esque, I like that."
But first, Matsui, the sun in the Stadium's treacherous left field and Sierra had to save the game. The Yankees had moved to within 5-4 in the seventh when a walk to pinch-hitter Tony Womack and Derek Jeter's single set up an RBI single by Gary Sheffield. Matsui followed by slicing a fly down the left field line off Steve Kline.
Matsui thumped his bat the ground, a rare show of negative emotion, as he trotted toward first. Tejada and left fielder B.J. Surhoff converged, but the ball dropped just beyond Tejada's glove and just inside the line for an RBI double that tied the score at 5-5.
"I thought I was completely out," Matsui said through a translator. "I was basically lucky more than anything."
Sierra slammed Kline's next pitch, a fastball down the middle, into the netting above the retired numbers beyond the left-field wall and the crowd of 50,275 at the Stadium went crazy, demanding Sierra come out for a curtain call. He trotted up the dugout steps and soaked up the adulation.
"That was a (terrible) pitch and he hit it 600 feet," Kline said. "I tried to knock it down with my glove, but I couldn't get in front of it. That's the story of my life -- three-run homers."
Kline seemed angry Matsui's ball hadn't been caught -- he was gyrating on the mound after the play. "He was making signs out there, so he was upset," Sierra said.
Rivera's inning wasn't perfect. He allowed a leadoff double to Brian Roberts, but retired Melvin Mora, Tejada and Sammy Sosa to end the game.
"That was not one of Randy Johnson's better games and to come out on top, that's important," Torre said. Then he added, "We were lucky and then Ruben put the cherry on top."