Friday, July 21, 2006

Yanks Fall in Extra

It doesn't happen often, but Mariano Rivera walked off the mound Thursday night without a smile on his face.
Vernon Wells blasted a walk-off home run with one out in the 11th inning against the All-Star closer, giving the Blue Jays a 5-4 victory in the first game of a four-game series.

Rivera looked like his vintage self on Thursday when he took the mound in the 10th inning of a 4-4 game. The closer blew through the Blue Jays lineup with a perfect inning, getting a pair of ground balls and a fly out to left.

But in his second inning of relief, Rivera allowed a leadoff single to Frank Catalanotto, putting the winning run on base. With Wells at the plate, the Jays put on a hit-and-run sign, but Rivera's first pitch jammed Wells inside. Catalanotto took off for second and was caught stealing, giving Rivera the first out and erasing the baserunner.

But his next pitch, an inside cutter, caught too much of the plate, allowing Wells to deposit it over the left-field fence for the game-winner.

The home run was the first given up this season by Rivera, who last served up a long ball on Aug. 16 to Tampa Bay's Eduardo Perez. It was the sixth time in Rivera's career that he has allowed a walk-off homer, the last coming on July 24, 2004, against Boston's Bill Mueller.

The loss dropped the Yankees 2 1/2 games behind the Red Sox for first place in the American League East. The Blue Jays remain 5 1/2 behind Boston, but moved within three games of second-place New York.

Roy Halladay held the Yankees to three runs over 7 2/3 innings, but B.J. Ryan blew the save -- just his third in 27 opportunities this season -- preventing Halladay from becoming the first 13-game winner in baseball.

Mike Mussina was brilliant over the first five innings, but a four-run sixth -- highlighted by yet another Alex Rodriguez throwing error -- put a damper on his seven-inning performance.

After going 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position in the first two innings, New York got to Halladay in the third, as Miguel Cairo singled, stole second and scored on Johnny Damon's RBI double. Damon was later doubled off second base after Jason Giambi's line drive was caught, ending the rally early.

The Yankees scored another run in the fourth, using an A-Rod double, a Jorge Posada single and an RBI groundout by Bernie Williams to take a 2-0 lead. That lead increased to 3-0 in the fifth, as Cairo's sac fly scored Melky Cabrera from third base.

The way Mussina was throwing, allowing just two singles through the first five innings, the three-run lead looked like it would be more than enough.

Unfortunately for Mussina and the Yankees, the sixth was a different story.

Aaron Hill started the inning with a double, giving Toronto its first runner in scoring position in the game. Hill moved to third on John McDonald's groundout, then took off for home on Reed Johnson's grounder to third. A-Rod threw home to try for the out, but his throw sailed away from Posada, making it a 3-1 game.

The Jays took the momentum from there, as Catalanotto blooped a single to score Johnson, then Vernon Wells poked a grounder through the hole at short. Troy Glaus doubled in both runners, giving the Blue Jays a 4-3 lead.

The game stayed that way until the eighth, when manager John Gibbons removed Halladay in favor of Ryan with two outs and Giambi coming up. Before the at-bat, Giambi was 16-for-50 (.320) against Halladay and just 1-for-13 (.077) against Ryan.

But Giambi took advantage of the shift on the right side of the field, poking a single to left to put the tying run on base. Ryan then walked A-Rod, setting up Posada's broken-bat bloop single to left-center, scoring pinch-runner Bubba Crosby to tie the game at 4-4.

Scott Proctor threw a pair of scoreless innings, while Ryan posted a zero in the ninth and Justin Speier did the same in the 10th. After the Yankees went down in the 11th, Rivera came back out, giving up the one-out homer to Wells.

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