Loss to Birds ruffles Yanks' feathers

BALTIMORE -- The New York Yankees' postgame clubhouse on Saturday night looked like a scene lifted out of the "Bronx is Burning." One moment, the first baseman was ripping the integrity of the umpires. Another, the manager and a columnist were yelling at each other in an office, with Yankees security having to step in to calm everything.

By the end of media access, the Yankees' PR director had the team's beat reporters huddled in a small office for 20 minutes for an impromptu teleconference with the team president that was subsequently canceled.

This was all after the Yankees and Baltimore Orioles staged one of the most exciting games of the year, a 5-4 Orioles victory that ended with the injured Mark Teixeira leaving the tying run at third when he hit into a game-ending double play.

On the play that ignited the fireworks, Teixeira slid head-first and was clearly safe. The score should have been tied, but first-base umpire Jerry Meals missed the call.

Oh, and by the way -- in what might be the most relevant aspect to the AL East race, which is tied again -- the Orioles lost their leadoff hitter, Nick Markakis, for six weeks after he was hit on his thumb.

While there was mayhem all around in the postgame clubhouse, the biggest issue for the Yankees might be CC Sabathia. For the third straight game, the Yankees gave their ace a lead and he returned it. Sabathia's velocity was down, but he and Girardi said the lefty is not injured.

"I feel like I'm letting everyone down," said Sabathia, who has been on the DL twice this season, most recently with a strained elbow.

Sabathia (13-5) lasted until one out in the seventh, giving up five earned runs. His fastball didn't even average 92 on the night and he got beat on his slider, which usually doesn't happen when he is right.

The issue of Sabathia's health led to Girardi ending up nose-to-nose -- like he might with an umpire -- with a New York Post baseball columnist. During his postgame news conference, Girardi was asked about Sabathia's health and he said he was fine. The columnist was in the back of the scrum and could not clearly hear the previous answers.

"I think you might have just been asked my question," he said. "Are you convinced that CC is healthy?"

Girardi said, "Yes, that's the third time. He's healthy."

What followed was a rigid exchange between reporter and manager. After the news conference, Girardi invited the writer into his office and the two ended up nose-to-nose, yelling before security stepped in between them.

Meanwhile, Teixeira took his hacks at the umpires, saying that he felt they missed calls in the eighth on balls and strikes and in the ninth, on the game-ending play at first base, because they wanted the game to end. It was a loaded charge, and Teixeira was unapologetic and unconcerned with the consequences.

"I'm probably going to get fined," Teixeira said. "But I don't care, really. I'm out there fighting. We are out there fighting. When you are battling like we are battling and they can't get a call right, that pisses you off, it really does."

By the time Teixeira was done, Yankees PR director Jason Zillo was summoning the beat reporters into a small office in the Camden Yards road clubhouse, waiting to speak with Randy Levine, the team president. Levine had called the teleconference, but after some cell issues the conference call was canceled.

The intensity of a September pennant race is making everything rise to new levels. The anxiety in the Yankees' clubhouse felt like the Boss was still around. The first baseman was hot. The manager was hotter.

Meanwhile, the Orioles are the hottest and are looking to win three of four to take sole possession of first place. Who knows what another post-loss news conference could bring.