BALTIMORE -- It was after midnight ET when Hector Noesi returned to his locker at Camden Yards, accepting pats on the back all around. The lineup card rested on his chair, proof positive of an unforgettable big league debut.
Noesi had spent 16 days with the Yankees without throwing so much as a pitch, but in a wild 15-inning affair when nothing went as planned, the untested right-hander saved the day with four scoreless innings in a 4-1 victory over the Orioles.
"This is a guy that was just watching everybody pitching," said Robinson Cano, who ripped a two-run double to put New York ahead for good in the 15th. "Your first game, tied game? It's really tough to be in a game like that. That guy, he can pitch. I was real impressed."
Cano's big hit came off lefty Mike Gonzalez, a drive to right-center that chased home Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez, their spikes rapping home plate with the Yankees' first runs since the fourth inning.
It was a game that the Yankees believed to be won much earlier, as 37-year-old Bartolo Colon rolled the clock back with eight dominant, scoreless innings, only to watch the timeless Mariano Rivera cough up the lead in the ninth.
Onward they went, a bevy of runners stranded aboard on both sides, and by the end, Cano didn't even bother to put it nicely. He was exhausted, thinking of his hotel room, and he wasn't alone. It was Noesi who got the game that far, silencing Baltimore's bats after the 12th inning.
"I was nervous the first inning, but that situation, you know that's going to happen sometimes," Noesi said. "And you've got to do whatever you have to do to get out."
It didn't all go smoothly. Noesi fulfilled a promise to his family by striking out the first batter he faced, J.J. Hardy, but he soon loaded the bases. Noesi got Nick Markakis to bounce back to the mound, nearly running the ball all the way to first base himself.
"It felt like nobody on base, you know?" Noesi said. "You've got to be relaxed to do what you have to do, pitch by pitch."
Noesi would continue to pin the O's, striking out Mark Reynolds looking to end the 13th, Adam Jones looking to end the 14th and finally pointing skyward as Hardy flied out to end a bizarre and memorable game.
"It's one he'll never forget, I'm sure," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "It's one he won't want to forget, that's for sure. I was impressed. He came out and threw strikes right away."
There was also a frightening moment. Three pitches after Cano's two-run double, Gonzalez's 1-1 offering shattered the bill of Chris Dickerson's helmet, dropping the outfielder to the ground -- just 48 hours after he'd been called up to the Majors.
Gonzalez was immediately ejected by home-plate umpire Dan Bellino, and Brett Gardner added insurance with a sacrifice fly off Thursday's originally scheduled starter, Jeremy Guthrie, who had been summoned into emergency relief.
"Very scary," Rodriguez said. "Obviously, your heart stops when you see anything like that. We're definitely glad that he's OK. Hopefully, everything is OK."
It was impossible not to wonder how the outcome would have differed, of course, had Girardi sent Colon back out for the ninth inning.
With Colon at 87 pitches and spinning a scoreless masterpiece, Girardi went by the book and called upon Rivera for three outs.
"Of course there's a thought to leave him in there, but I have Mariano Rivera," Girardi said. "That's why I made the move. I wanted someone that was fresh, and it didn't work out. Bartolo was outstanding."
But the legendary closer allowed one-out singles to Jones and Markakis, and with chants of "Let's Go, Mo" spilling through the concourses of Camden Yards, Vladimir Guerrero tied the game with a sacrifice fly.
"I didn't make my pitches," Rivera said. "Balls found holes. It was a bad day at the office. We won the game. That's the most important thing."
Rivera's third blown save deleted Colon from what would have been his first victory since April 27, but it didn't diminish a very impressive effort.
Colon turned in his sharpest outing to date in a New York uniform, limiting Baltimore to just three hits in another vintage performance.
"This is the best game so far [this year]," Colon said through an interpreter. "Thank God we won the game. I wish I will continue to pitch that way."
Colon had to be sharp, considering the slim support provided by the Yankees, who managed an unearned run in seven innings off promising rookie Zach Britton, scoring only in the fourth inning.
Rodriguez reached on an infield hit and advanced on a groundout before Britton whirled for a pickoff throw that sailed past second baseman Robert Andino, shooting into center field.
"If I make a good throw, I think I've got him out," Britton said.
Diving headfirst back into second base, Rodriguez popped up and steamed into third base, beating the throw. Nick Swisher then lined a sacrifice fly that brought in the run.
It'd be all the Yankees would get off Britton, who scattered six hits while walking three and striking four.
"Tonight was fun," Teixeira said. "That guy pitched great -- Britton pitched amazing. We couldn't scratch any out in extra innings against their relievers, but finally, we got to them in the 15th. That's a fun win; that's a terrible loss."
Luis Ayala recorded four outs following Rivera, and Boone Logan pitched out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the 11th to push the game further along, helped by Teixeira, who snared a wild A-Rod throw headed for right field.
"That was one of the highlight plays for the year for me," Rodriguez said. "He definitely saved the day."