The miraculous 2013 Yankees formula displayed many of its unexplainable parts Monday. But, on final analysis, what separated the Yankees and the Orioles is the same thing that has been the difference between the Yankees and everyone else since the mid-'90s.
The Yankees have Mariano Rivera. Other teams don't.
While Orioles closer Jim Johnson folded for the third straight time with a save on the line, the 43-year-old Rivera trotted out for his 17th save in 17 tries. He blanked the Birds in the 10th, and in his final year, Rivera is perfect.
"It is not normal what he does," said Vernon Wells, who had the game-winning double in the Yankees' 10-inning 6-4 win over the Orioles. "We are just glad to have him on this team and continue to give him opportunities, and he'll continue slamming the door and we'll continue shaking hands after the game."
They did so Monday because the Yankees' 2006 All-Stars continue to use a DeLorean to go from the on-deck circle to the batter's box. In the seventh, Lyle Overbay took lefty Troy Patton deep to give the Yankees a lead. After CC Sabathia returned it at the bottom of the inning, Travis Hafner smashed a game-tying homer with one out in the ninth off Johnson. In the 10th, Ichiro Suzuki -- who has just been along for the ride with his fellow '06 stars -- led off with a double. Then Wells hit the go-ahead ground-rule double.
We are almost in June, and these guys keep delivering. The clubhouse talks about how everyone gets along and they are all professionals, which sounds good but doesn't exactly explain how this team keeps winning with Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez and more on the disabled list.
It has to be seen to be believed, and even then, you feel like going to the ophthalmologist.
On top of all the injuries, the Yankees are winning without their ace, because the dominant Sabathia has not shown up yet. He is a solid 4-3 with a 3.43 ERA, but he is getting hit -- and hit hard. On Monday, it was a second straight 10-plus hit game.
"He's not giving up a lot of runs," manager Joe Girardi said. "He is finding a way to get outs when he needs to get outs."
His velocity is still stuck at 89-91 mph, and without the extra oomph, six of the Orioles' 11 hits were for extra bases. There were five doubles and a homer.
"I threw a lot of fastballs in, but they were ready," Sabathia said. "They did a good job of [hitting fastballs] when I did make a mistake, barreling it up and they hit a lot of doubles. They just did a good job of barreling up some balls."
This would have been the story of the night if not for the Yankees' born-again stars and Rivera coming through again.
It is not only Rivera. His supporting acts in the bullpen have been tremendous. Shawn Kelley is quickly making Joba Chamberlain's absence even more irrelevant by striking out an astounding 33 in 18 1/3 innings. For perspective, starter Phil Hughes has struck out a very respectable 37 in 41 1/3 innings.
Meanwhile, David Robertson is consistently handing the baton to Rivera. On Monday, Robertson picked up his third win with a scoreless ninth.
In the 10th, it was Rivera for three up and three down, just old hat for the game's greatest closer ever.
"I don't take him for granted," Girardi said.
No, you can't. The Yankees are 28-16, among the best records in baseball. The incredible start begins at the end, just like old times.