NEW YORK -- It's tough too come much closer to a victory, a series sweep and a seven-game winning streak than the Yankees did this afternoon, needing just two more outs to gift-wrap a 1-0 win over the Orioles with baseball's all-time greatest closer on the mound.
Hit Go-ahead HR vs. Mariano Rivera
ninth inning or later
with team trailing
But it wasn't Mariano Rivera's day today. A single up the middle, a home run to left and the Yankees go down to a shocking 2-1 defeat, winning the series, two games to one, but missing an opportunity to go 10 games over .500 for the first time since June 11.
What it means: That there are no sure things in this game, not even with Rivera on the mound in the ninth inning.
High socks, low spirits: Rivera came out for the ninth inning with uncharacteristically high socks, presumably in support of David Robertson's bid for the final spot on the AL All-Star team. But the hosiery did not help either of them. After Nick Markakis narrowly missed hitting a game-tying home run just a few feet to the wrong side of the right-field foul pole, the Orioles right fielder singled up the middle. Then, Adam Jones followed with a long homer to left that gave the Orioles a 2-1 lead and pulled the rug out from under what would have been a tidy Yankees victory. It was Mo's second blown save of the season in 31 opportunities.
Hip Hip Hiroki: After missing a start with a sore left hip flexor, Hiroki Kuroda threw one of his best games of the season on one of the worst days of the summer, an announced 92 degrees at first pitch with off-the-charts humidity. Still, Kuroda held the Orioles scoreless for seven innings, allowing just three hits, one of them an infield single, and one walk, and using an economical 88 pitches. Kuroda may not be an AL All-Star, but he's surely been the first-half All-Star of the Yankees' starting rotation.
RBI machine: Eduardo Nunez knocked in his third run in the two games he has played since being reactivated from the disabled list. His sharp line out to left scored Zoilo Almonte from third on a sacrifice fly to give the Yankees a 1-0 second-inning lead.
You da Manny: Incredible play in the sixth inning by Orioles third baseman Manny Machado, who backhanded Luis Cruz's grounder down the line, fumbled it slightly as his momentum carried him into foul territory, slung the ball across his body -- and still got Cruz by a half-step at first base.
OK, ya got me: Chris Stewart was picked off by Orioles reliever T.J. McFarland in the eighth, but somehow 2B umpire Gary Darling called him safe. Replays showed Stewart was out by at least a foot, and the Yankees catcher's first reaction was to start walking off the field before he realized he had gotten the call.
Late push: Robertson, one of the five candidates for the final spot on the AL All-Star team, added to his resume with a perfect eighth inning, including a strikeout of the dangerous Nate McLouth to wrap up the inning.
What's next: Orioles out, Royals in. This 10-game homestand resumes with four games against Kansas City beginning Monday night. The pitching matchups: Phil Hughes (4-7, 4.55) vs. RHP Jeremy Guthrie (7-6, 4.29) Monday night; CC Sabathia (9-6, 4.06) vs. RHP James Shields (3-6, 3.23) Tuesday night; Ivan Nova (3-2, 4.09) vs. RHP Wade Davis (4-7, 5.42) Wednesday night; and Andy Pettitte (6-6, 4.37) vs. RHP Ervin Santana (5-5, 2.84) Thursday afternoon.