BALTIMORE -- Mark Teixeira charged up the first-base line, his strained left calf begging him to slow down, and there was a split-second where he realized that his only hope to beat the play would be to dive head-first.
Teixeira thought he'd tied the game with a daring ninth-inning effort, but umpire Jerry Meals didn't agree. Teixeira spiked his helmet and the Yankees fumed, but the call stood as the Orioles gleefully celebrated a 5-4 victory on Saturday at Camden Yards.
"Sometimes you wonder if the umpires are just trying to get out of there," said Teixeira, who was also burned by a called third strike in the eighth inning. "They don't want you to make a comeback. They want to go home, because those are terrible calls."
Teixeira said that his unfiltered comments will likely earn him a reprimand from the league office, but he refused to back down on a night when CC Sabathia delivered a clunker and the Yankees and Orioles finished knotted atop the American League East for the third time in five days.
"I'm probably going to get fined, but I don't care, really, because I'm out there fighting," Teixeira said. "We're out there fighting. When you're battling like we're battling, and I'm out there on one leg and they can't get a call right, that [ticks] you off. It really does."
Yankees manager Joe Girardi also lambasted Meals' call, which came after Teixeira slapped a slow grounder to the right side of the infield with runners at first and third and one out.
Second baseman Robert Andino whipped the ball to shortstop J.J. Hardy to force out Nick Swisher at second base, and television replays confirmed that Teixeira beat Hardy's return throw to first base with the head-first slide.
"It's not a bang-bang play. He's safe," Girardi said. "He's clearly safe. Jerry missed it. You hate to lose a game that way, but he missed it. It's extremely frustrating."
As if to further prove the point, a laptop computer in the Yankees' clubhouse was showing a screen grab of the play after the game. As Yankees players exited, several stopped to look at the snapshot and grimaced.
"I didn't really feel like we lost the game, I feel like we got cheated out of it," Yankees catcher Russell Martin said.
Mike Winters, the umpiring crew chief, told the New York Daily News that he was not prepared to comment in detail.
"We saw a replay, and from where I'm sitting, it's inconclusive," Winters said. "It's very close. That's a very close play."
The Orioles are now 62-0 when leading after seven innings, but they barely sealed this one after Ichiro Suzuki and Eric Chavez greeted closer Jim Johnson with singles to open the ninth.
Derek Jeter dropped a beautiful bunt to load the bases, and Swisher -- in the midst of an 0-for-23 skid - punched a run home with a fielder's-choice grounder ahead of Teixeira's game-ending double-play ball.
"It was an amazing turn," Orioles first baseman Mark Reynolds said. "I know Teixeira has been out with his calf. He's probably not running as well as he would like to. I know he busted it down the line and gave it everything he had."
The play wouldn't have mattered had the Yankees received an ace-caliber performance from Sabathia, who served up three homers in a lackluster outing.
"I feel like I'm letting everybody down, not going out and making pitches I need to make," Sabathia said. "We had a 2-0 lead and I come right back and give it up. That's not me. Hopefully I can correct this thing and go out and pitch well next time."
Reynolds continued to be a Yankee killer, striking the first blow against Sabathia with a solo blast in the second inning; Reynolds' 21st home run of the year and his seventh against the Yankees alone.
"I feel like everything we do, it's like he's reading our minds out there," Martin said. "We're trying our best to contain him, but he's not missing."
Lew Ford followed Reynolds' shot with one of his own, going back-to-back against Sabathia to wipe out an early New York lead -- the third straight start that Sabathia has been handed a lead, only to cough it up.
Hardy also slugged a sixth-inning shot off the lefty, who allowed five runs in 6 1/3 innings and has now surrendered a career-high 21 homers this year despite serving two stints on the disabled list.
The victory came at a high cost to the Orioles, as Sabathia plunked Nick Markakis on the left hand in the fifth inning, fracturing his thumb and likely ending the outfielder's season.
The Yankees were limited to just two runs over 5 2/3 innings by Baltimore starter Joe Saunders but were unable to strike for more, as Darren O'Day extinguished a sixth-inning rally with two strikeouts.
Alex Rodriguez slugged a moonshot homer off Pedro Strop in the eighth, but Curtis Granderson fouled out against Brian Matusz to leave two men aboard, ending the inning and setting up a wild finish that still had the Yankees grumbling hours later.
"It does no good," Teixeira said. "It wasn't even that close, that's what's disappointing. We're out here battling, we're scratching and clawing for every win, and it wasn't close. I'm not one to complain about calls, but that was bad."