Beltran rips thrilling walk-off blast to beat O's
Yankees slugger caps ninth-inning rally with two-out three-run homer
NEW YORK -- Carlos Beltran had been feeling more comfortable at the plate the last few days, although the results were not all there yet. He was hitting the ball harder and squaring up the pitches he wanted, but he was batting .181 since coming off the disabled list on June 5.
When he came to bat in the bottom of the ninth inning Friday with the Yankees trailing the Orioles by a run, Beltran felt confident he could get the result he wanted if he got a good pitch to hit.
"When you feel good at the plate, you want to be in that spot," Beltran said. "But when you're not swinging the bat well, you don't want to be in that spot."
Beltran clobbered a game-winning three-run home run to give the Yankees a 5-3 victory, sending 46,197 fans at Yankee Stadium into a frenzy. The home run, Beltran's seventh of the season, came on a 3-1 count on a 96-mph fastball from Orioles closer Zach Britton.
Beltran had a wide smile on his face as he rounded third base and saw his teammates waiting to congratulate him as he touched home plate.
New York (39-33) has won four consecutive games, all against its division, and eight of its last 10 to improve to a season-high six games above .500. This was the Yankees' first walk-off home run of the year, and Beltran's first since June 11, 2008, with the Mets. He was rewarded with a Gatorade shower.
"It really means a lot for us right now," Beltran said. "We're playing against teams that are in our division, so it's important. Win the first one in the series, so tomorrow is our chance to win the series."
The Yankees took a 1-0 lead in the first inning after Jacoby Ellsbury singled, stole second and scored on a double by Mark Teixeira. But for the next seven innings they could not capitalize with runners in scoring position.
The Yankees loaded the bases three times but couldn't score.
The bases were full with one out in the second inning when Brett Gardner flew out to center field, and Beltran was thrown out trying to tag and score by Orioles center fielder Adam Jones. Teixeira grounded out to first base in the fifth and Gardner bounced into a fielder's choice at second base in the sixth to leave the bases loaded in those innings.
Before Beltran's home run, the Yankees were 3-for-11 with runners in scoring position and had stranded 11 men on base.
"That's baseball," Beltran said. "The good thing was we didn't let that affect us, and we just went up there and continued to put up good at-bats. At the end of the day, we ended up winning the ballgame."
The Yankees received a solid start from Hiroki Kuroda, who carried a no-hitter through five innings. But once the Orioles broke up the no-hitter in the sixth, they jumped on him for four hits and two runs and took a 2-1 advantage. Kuroda's day was done after six, allowing just the four hits and two runs while striking out six.
Orioles starter Ubaldo Jimenez was erratic with his command, issuing six walks in 5 2/3 innings, but matched Kuroda's pace and allowed just one run.
An error by Yangervis Solarte in the ninth eventually came around to score for an insurance run against lefty David Huff (2-0), and the Orioles (37-35) led, 3-1, with Britton coming to the mound.
Brett Gardner singled to start the inning, before Britton retired the next two batters. Teixeira walked and was followed by an RBI single to center field by Brian McCann to drive home Gardner and extend the inning for Beltran.
This was just Britton's (3-1) second blown save of the season in 11 chances.
"That last pitch right there, he's a good high-ball hitter when he is facing a lefty and I kind of put it right where he could do some damage," Britton said.