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05/08/07 12:30 AM ET

Missed call haunts Yankees

Disputed stolen base in eighth leads to game-tying run

NEW YORK -- You could see the dirt, the outfield grass, and the disgust on the faces of Yankees fans. You could see the beginning of a Mariners game-tying run. And you could see what eventually doomed the Yankees on Monday night.

What you couldn't see were pinch-runner Willie Bloomquist's hands. There, in the still shot of a replay shown more than once, second base sat in television slow motion, all alone.

Bloomquist, attempting a steal in the eighth inning, slid head first toward second as Robinson Cano reached for a high throw from catcher Jorge Posada. The Yankees second baseman's glove swept down onto Bloomquist's back.

That's when the cameras caught the difference in a 3-2 Yankees loss to the Mariners: Bloomquist's fingertips fell far short of the bag by the time Cano applied the tag.

Then, after the game, second-base umpire Gerry Davis swallowed some pride but salted a wound, admitting that he'd missed the call.

"The throw was on the first-base side and pulled Robinson toward me a little bit," Davis said. "Normally, when the runner is tagged on his back side, his hands are on the bag. The runner's hands were blocked from me."

"That's how it goes," Derek Jeter said. "Sometimes you get calls that are for you, and other times you get calls that are against you. We had our opportunities."

Cano didn't want to argue for fear of ejection, and Don Mattingly -- managing in place of Joe Torre, who was serving a one-game suspension -- said he didn't have a good view of the play from the dugout. There was no room to dispute, but the replay played on.

Cano threw down the tag: "I know he was out, but he was called safe."

Posada watched from home plate: "Nothing you can do."

Bloomquist reminisced: "We got a break."

Kenji Johjima singled to right field to bring the runner in from second after the missed call. That knotted the score at 2, but hope remained strong -- especially after the Yankees watched rookie right-hander Matt DeSalvo pitch seven innings of three-hit ball. Not to mention their decade-of-dominance closer had just thrown his last warm-up toss.

In from the bullpen jogged Mariano Rivera in the ninth, his familiar "Enter Sandman" theme song blaring over the loud speakers. Even though he's given up a couple ninth-inning home runs this year, every Yankee still agrees they're surprised when someone hits a ball hard off him.

"We expect him to be perfect every time out," Mattingly said. "It's not always going to happen, but it's Mariano. You know he's going to do the job for you."

That's why they were shocked to see Adrian Beltre hit one over the left-center-field fence, which capped the scoring at 3-2. The pitch, Posada and Rivera agreed, sailed over the middle of the plate instead of darting inside to the Mariners third baseman.

The homer gave the Mariners the win as the Yankees couldn't score in their half of the ninth.

That's the game. Now enter DeSalvo.

He's a guy who likes to paint, especially those scenic pieces you might see mounted on a wall in a Manhattan restaurant. And on Monday, he painted a picture over the plate with four or five different pitches, each one sending a message to the Mariners' lineup: This rookie will get you out.

And that's what DeSalvo did -- over and over and over -- allowing just one run in his debut. The 26-year-old retired the final eight batters he faced.

After the game, DeSalvo grinned through nearly every question asked of him. Then he let the memories of his first start in Yankee Stadium unfurl like a camera wheel.

"I got to see Jeter make a great play in the hole, and I got to see Damon save a double with a catch over his head, and I got to see Mariano," DeSalvo said. "Right now I'm like a little kid."

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman praised DeSalvo before the game, saying how proud he was of all the Minor League steps he took to get to the ballpark in the Bronx. And by the time the game ended, DeSalvo had walked into the Yankees rotation for at least one more go-around.

The Yankees informed him he would start again in a rotation that, by season's end, will have included Mike Mussina, Andy Pettitte, Chien-Ming Wang and Roger Clemens.

"He pitched great for us," Mattingly said. "And it was great for him."

Caleb Breakey is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.