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Posada gives Yankees power surge

BALTIMORE -- The pitch was over the middle of the plate, nowhere near the spot Chris Ray wanted it to go.

Jorge Posada hit the ball so far that right fielder Nick Markakis took only one step before stopping to watch it soar over the 25-foot scoreboard. Ray asked for another baseball, but by then he was virtually assured another loss against the New York Yankees.

Posada's 14th homer broke a ninth-inning tie, and New York rallied for its fifth straight victory, 5-4, over the Baltimore Orioles last night.

Ray (1-4) retired Jason Giambi before Posada connected against Baltimore's closer on a pitch that went awry.

``It was supposed to be down and away and I left it down the middle," said Ray, who has three losses against New York this season. ``He did what he was supposed to do with it."

Mariano Rivera worked the ninth for his 27th save. By finishing his 114th game over two seasons, Rivera guarantees his $10.5 million option for 2007.

Scott Proctor (4-2) worked the eighth to earn the win for New York, which had 13 hits and stranded 13 runners.

``When you look up there and see all those runners left on base . . . that's something I don't think anybody feels comfortable with," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. ``But we had some big things happen."

There was no bigger hit than Posada's in the ninth.

``It got too much of the plate and I got a good swing on it," Posada said.

The Yankees trailed, 4-3, in the seventh before coming back to send the Orioles a season-high 12 games under .500 (49-61). Fernando Tatis connected for Baltimore, his first major-league homer since June 1, 2003, when he was with the Montreal Expos.

``We played a great game. There's not a whole lot of room for mistakes against that ball club, but I thought we did OK," Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo said.

New York starter Randy Johnson, coming off a horrid performance against Tampa Bay in which he yielded nine runs in 3 1/3 innings, gave up four runs and nine hits in six innings. He did not have a strikeout or a walk.

``I don't want to be the wheel that's falling off the wagon here. That's where I am at right now," Johnson said.

Johnny Damon homered and Miguel Cairo had two RBIs for the Yankees, who have won nine of 10 to take over first place in the AL East.

``This is pretty amazing. Early on we had a lot of inconsistency," Damon said. ``Now we're putting it together. Guys are finding ways. It's kind of fun. We feel like we're in the driver's seat."

Damon got the Yankees started by driving Bruce Chen's second pitch over the right field wall. It was his fourth leadoff homer of the year and 20th of his career.

New York made it 3-0 in the second. Wilson led off with a double and took third on a single by Cabrera before Cairo hit a two-run double. Then, with runners at the corners and two outs, Chen retired Alex Rodriguez on a groundout.

Baltimore used an RBI single by Tatis and a run-scoring grounder by Melvin Mora to close to 3-2 in the third.

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