Pavano's odd history as a Yankee was mirrored in strangeness in his first game back on the hill since April 9, 2007. In a game that featured a number of odd plays, including a strikeout of Orioles third baseman Melvin Mora which turned into a double and then back into an out, the ejection of manager Dave Trembley and three hit batsmen, the Yankees walked away winners for the second straight night in a 5-3 victory over Baltimore. The win moved New York within five games of Boston for the American League Wild Card.
Pavano, who had been rehabbing from Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery since June 5, 2007, wasn't exactly the dominating pitcher the Yankees assumed they were getting after the fruitful 2004 season Pavano spent with the Marlins, when he went 18-8 with a 3.00 ERA. He was, however, good enough get through five frames for the win after a rough second inning that saw him allow the Orioles' only three runs of the night.
"I think he did great," manager Joe Girardi said. "I thought he threw the ball really well tonight, and obviously, he got the win for us and that's what we needed. He gave us five innings, he got up to around 90 pitches and he did everything that we asked him to do."
Pavano threw 91 pitches over five innings, 54 of them for strikes, survived hitting two batters and set down eight of the final 12 batters he faced.
In the second, Pavano allowed the first three Orioles to reach via a double, a walk and a single, and then saw those three batters come around to score. Then, with two outs and Nick Markakis on first base, Mora whiffed on a 1-2 changeup in the dirt from Pavano and looked to head back to the dugout. The third baseman never got there, however, as he discretely continued to walk up the first-base line and tag first before heading to second with many of the Yankees' infielders already off the field.
Initially, Mora was called safe, which would have allowed the inning to continue. Joe Girardi came out to argue before crew chief Joe West called a meeting of the umpires and reversed the call -- prompting a heated argument from Trembley, ultimately leading to his ejection from the ballgame. Mora was called out because it was ruled that he had abandoned his chance to advance by first moving towards the dugout.
"I see the ball in the dirt," West said. "The hitter walked toward the dugout to throw his bat and helmet away. He, in doing so, has abandoned his effort to reach the next base. He's called out, according to the rule. I didn't see him, because I'm watching Pudge with the ball. So that's why I had to ask for help. 'What did [Mora] do?' And they all agreed that he abandoned his effort to go to first, and that's why he was called out."
Pavano was already in the dugout before he even noticed the discussion on the field.
"I'm walking to the dugout, I'm looking in the stands ... and then I go to put my glove down, and I turn around and everyone's still on the field," Pavano said.
For a moment, he thought he had walked off the field with just one out.
"All the guys on the bench, they're all talking to each other," Pavano said. "And I'm like, 'You guys don't even tell me what's going on out there?' And they're like, 'We didn't know, we thought it was the third out.'"
Safely out of that jam, the Yankees' offense took advantage of Orioles starter Jeremy Guthrie in the third inning. Jason Giambi rocketed a two-run homer into the center-field stands, scoring Alex Rodriguez, who was hit by a pitch. It was Giambi's 202nd homer in a Yankees uniform, moving him into a tie with Bill Dickey for 13th place on the Yankees' all-time home run list.
Pavano then made the adjustments asked of him by a strong-hitting Orioles lineup -- going to his fastball more -- and was able to better assert himself through his final three frames.
"I'm behind in the count almost every guy," Pavano said of his performance through the first two innings. "They hit the ball, they made good swings, but a lot of their hits were finding holes, and that's what happens when you're behind in the count and you're using soft stuff.
"I feel like I have good enough movement and good enough command on my fastball to use it more than I did in the first two innings, and I knew that was the only way I was going to get in a rhythm and that's what I did from the third inning on."
Catcher Ivan Rodriguez, who has a history with Pavano from their time together on the Marlins, said returning to the fastball buoyed Pavano after the second inning.
The Yankees' bullpen did its job, keeping the Orioles off the board after Pavano's exit. Brian Bruney threw two innings, Jose Veras pitched the eighth and Mariano Rivera threw the ninth to notch his 30th save.
Hideki Matsui had made that job a little easier in the seventh inning, when he sent a solo shot to center field for his 500th RBI with the Yankees and an insurance run.
Amanda Comak is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.