After wasting a workmanlike effort from starter Andy Pettitte, the Yankees collapsed in the ninth inning on Tuesday night, when Scott Proctor walked Ramon Hernandez with the bases loaded, giving the Orioles a 3-2 victory and extending New York's losing streak to three games.
Manager Joe Torre is becoming adept at critiquing one-run losses, usually pointing to a lack of offense as the culprit. The Yankees, who fell to 1-6 on a nine-game road swing, slipped to 4-13 in games decided by a run.
"We've played well for longer than a couple of days while we were putting the [good] streak together," said Torre, whose squad had won 14 of 17 before the recent road skid. "We just need to get that back again. But it all starts with pitching. Tonight was one of those games where we contributed more than the Orioles did to our demise."
Contrasting the Yankees struggles on the mound Tuesday was Pettitte, who walked five but constantly seemed to wiggle out of trouble, and Proctor, who issued three free passes in the ninth inning. Proctor had two strikes on three of the five hitters he faced, but could put only one away.
"It's real tough right now," Proctor said. "The way we're playing, every game's huge. I let everybody down. I'm just [mad] at myself. You can't ... walk people. It's embarrassing."
Corey Patterson opened the ninth by drawing a walk on a 3-2 pitch from Proctor (1-5), and the right-hander was still steamed at losing the leadoff hitter.
"The first guy is everything -- especially when you walk them. ... You can't do that, you've got to make him hit his way on," Proctor said.
Brian Roberts, unable to get a sacrifice down, lined an opposite-field single to short left before Proctor dove to snare Chris Gomez's bunt attempt for the first out. Had Proctor not knocked the wind out of himself when he struck the ground chest-first, he might have been able to double up Patterson, who had wandered off second and appeared unaware the pitcher made the catch.
Proctor walked Nick Markakis on four pitches and got a reprieve when he appeared to hit Hernandez on the left shoulder on a high and inside 1-1 offering that was ruled a ball by home-plate umpire Rob Drake. Hernandez worked the count to 3-2 before Proctor missed with an inside fastball.
"He was throwing the ball good, but he may have been trying to overthrow the ball. ... It looked like he was trying to make good pitches, but he just elevated too much," Torre said of Proctor
Hernandez, insisting he was grazed on the uniform sleeve by a Proctor pitch, used Drake's non-call as motivation.
"It really gets you hot, because you should've won the game right there," Hernandez said. "Now you keep having your at-bat, and I might ground out for a double play. You're just trying to stay calm, don't strike out and try not to hit a ground ball."
Chris Ray (4-5) got the win with a scoreless ninth, but had to work out of a jam. Ray walked leadoff hitter Jorge Posada, but Robinson Cano couldn't bunt Posada over and hit into a fielder's choice, which erased Posada at second. It was the first of three fielder's-choice grounders the Yankees hit into in the ninth.
New York got eight hits, but seven of them were singles. Baltimore's Jeremy Guthrie handcuffed the Yankees on two singles through the first five innings before Johnny Damon tied the game at 2 with his fifth homer of the year, hammering a Guthrie slider over the right-field scoreboard.
"For whatever reason, we're not adding on the scoreboard," lamented Damon, who played Tuesday after a Monday chiropractic appointment in which four of his right-side ribs were realigned. "We score runs and we go quiet for a few innings. When we were playing well, we kept adding on and adding on and putting pressure on the other team."
Baltimore scratched out a run in the third for a 1-0 lead. Patterson led off with a single and stole second, Roberts walked and both runners moved up on Gomez's bunt. Markakis then grounded to second, plating Patterson.
A well-placed hit and a lack of communication conspired to make it 2-0 in the fourth. With one out, Melvin Mora walked and went to third when Kevin Millar's fly ball to right center dropped between center fielder Melky Cabrera and right fielder Bobby Abreu when each gave way to the other. After a pop out, Patterson shot a flare to short center for an RBI single.
The Yankees tied it in the sixth. Miguel Cairo hit a one-out single and Damon followed with his fifth homer, a two-run shot that landed on the right-field flag court.
Guthrie departed after Cabrera singled with one out in the seventh. He went 6 1/3 innings, allowing two runs on seven hits, walking one, striking out seven and absorbing his seventh no-decision in 10 starts.
Yankees starter Andy Pettitte lasted seven innings. He allowed two runs on eight hits and struck out two in what he admitted wasn't a particularly sharp outing.
"I was battling my control," Pettitte said. "I was just thankful to hold them to two runs."
Only one of the batters Pettitte walked -- Mora in the fourth -- scored. The left-hander could empathize with what happened to Proctor in the ninth.
"They're killing us," Pettitte said, speaking of the walks. "We've talked about it; we know it. We need to get more aggressive in the strike zone. But when you're swinging the bats better, nobody's talking about the walks."
Pete Kerzel is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less