BALTIMORE (AP) — A tense AL East duel between the New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles revealed the strengths and weaknesses of each team.
After the Yankees beat the Orioles 6-4 in 10 innings Monday night to extend Baltimore's losing streak to six games, it became apparent why New York leads the division and Baltimore is mired in its longest skid in nearly a year.
Both showed their hitting prowess. Both played solid defense. The difference was that the Orioles got another poor performance from the back end of their bullpen, and New York got a typically strong outing from closer Mariano Rivera.
New York trailed 4-3 in the ninth before Travis Hafner homered with one out on a 3-1 pitch from Jim Johnson, who has blown three straight save opportunities after converting a franchise-record 35 in a row. All three of those botched saves have come during Baltimore's current slide.
Pedro Strop then gave up two runs in the 10th to complete the collapse. After that, Rivera breezed through a 1-2-3 inning for his 17th save in 17 tries.
"Believe me, I don't take him for granted," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said of Rivera. "It's hard to do it year after year after year. You're going to see guys go through some ups and downs, but Mo doesn't go through a lot."
Neither did Johnson until last week, when he blew ninth-inning leads against San Diego and Tampa Bay before collapsing against the Yankees.
"The ball's up. That seems to be the common thing lately," Johnson said. "Just not making the adjustment. I'm trying, you know, doing everything. I'm going to work through it."
Rivera, on the other hand, has been darn near perfect. And that is why the Yankees are 28-16 and Baltimore is five games back, as close to last place as first.
The Yankees also improved to 19-0 when scoring first this season.
"All bullpens are going to go through their struggles," Girardi said. "The bottom line is that we were able to get some runs off some pretty good pitchers tonight."
Robinson Cano hit his team-high 13th home run in the first inning for New York, David Adams clubbed his first major-league homer in the second and Lyle Overbay connected in the seventh.
In the 10th, Ichiro Suzuki led off with a double off Strop (0-2) and Vernon Wells followed with an RBI double to left. Hafner added a two-out single to make it 6-4.
David Robertson (3-0) worked the ninth as part of a relief crew that allowed two hits and no runs in 3 2-3 innings. Their effort followed an uneven performance by starter CC Sabathia.
Asked to assess the bullpen's performance, Sabathia said, "Unbelievable, but that's just been all year. We knew that was a strong point of our team, but they've really carried us. They've been great."