Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

No Longer Invincible, They're Ripe for Taking

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

No Longer Invincible, They're Ripe for Taking

Article excerpt

BALTIMORE - This is normally the time of year when Yankees fans take to the turnpike and overrun Camden Yards, but not on this night. Not when the Orioles were unveiling a statue of Cal Ripken Jr. as a warm-up to the main event - watching the O's continue the takedown of what used to be the AL East's best team.

The Yankees were beaten, 10-6, Thursday and there are few words to properly describe the carnage. The Bombers mounted a five-run rally in the eighth, tying the game at 6, only to watch helplessly as Adam Jones, Mark Reynolds and Chris Davis all hit home runs in the bottom half of the inning.

The Birds embarrassed Yankees' pitchers to the tune of six homers as they climbed into a tie for first place, standing up to the Bombers in a way no one could've ever imagined a month ago. But that was before the Orioles and Rays finally discovered how vulnerable the Yankees are, how they're being consumed by something deeper and more insidious than a late-summer slump. This has the makings of a historic collapse, and no one - not Joe Girardi or Brian Cashman -- seems to have the power to reverse it.

If nothing else, the Yankees were banking on their pennant-race pedigree to hold off the Orioles' insurgency. Girardi said, "Our guys have been through this before" especially at Camden Yards. This beautiful ballpark usually turns into the Yankees' second home - an easy mark when the Orioles play themselves out of contention. Tickets were always available for anyone willing to make the 200- mile drive to Baltimore. But this is the AL East's brave new world, where no one is afraid of the Bombers.

Camden Yards was packed with orange jerseys, an army of Birds loyalists who not only want to see them defy the long odds, but watch the Yankees torn apart one glorious inning at a time. It's been a pipe dream in Baltimore since 1997, but here it is, 25 games until the postseason, and the Yankees have never looked as unhinged as they do today.

One AL executive who's studied the Bombers' downward spiral says the damage goes beyond the standings. Instead, the Yankees are being stripped of the aura of invincibility that accompanied their 10- game lead in July. "Whenever they don't run out a ball now, or whenever one of their pitchers doesn't back up, we say, 'Look at that, the Yankees are human, too,'" he said. "You respect them, but the last thing you want is to be intimidated. It's a big step when you realize the Yankees are just players who make mistakes, too."

The Orioles have bought into the awakening, winning six of their past eight games against the Yankees. That's testimony to Buck Showalter's genius. He's taken a good, but not-quite-ready team and blistered past the Yankees in a 30-16 sprint. The Bombers, conversely, have lost 27 of 47 since July 18, back when the universe was theirs. …

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