NEW YORK - After waiting several hours to start the game, the New York Yankees held on a few more minutes for the go-ahead run.
Only 500 fans or so were left in the stands early Wednesday when the Yankees finished off a rain-delayed 5-3 win over the Baltimore Orioles at 2:15 a.m., helped when a video replay upheld Francisco Cervelli's tiebreaking homer.
With few options left for a makeup date, the messy game began at 11:08 p.m. after a delay of 4 hours, 3 minutes. The Yankees and Major League Baseball were in constant contact before the first pitch.
"I guess baseball wanted us to wait," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.
Umpire crew chief Gary Darling confirmed it was MLB's call on when to finally start. As for the soggy conditions, "it was never bad enough for us to stop," he said.
Cervelli hit his tiebreaking shot in the seventh inning off Tommy Hunter (3-3). Two fans reached near the left-field wall to grab it and Orioles manager Buck Showalter argued the ball was in play. The umpires reviewed the play, then confirmed their original home-run call.
"They will tell you, even though they didn't tell me, that they need indisputable evidence to overturn what the decision was on the field," Showalter said. "I haven't looked real good at it. I know what the players saw."
Brett Gardner followed with a home run, and the AL East-leading Yankees won their sixth in a row.
It was a sloppy affair, full of wild throws and fielding misadventures - four errors and two wild pitches, among them.
Rain fell throughout the night, whipped by gusting winds. Puddles formed and the grounds crew spent nearly as much time on the field as the players, dumping bag after bag of diamond dust in hopes of drying out the pitcher's mound, batter's box and basepaths.
"The dirt was too wet, but you got to play," Cervelli said.
During a 10-minute break in the fifth, the sound system played "Fixing a Hole" by the Beatles while the Yankees huddled under the dugout roof and Showalter spoke to the umpires.
Baltimore left fielder Matt Angle had the most glaring problem with the tough environment. He got twisted around when Cervelli lifted a fly in the fifth, dropped the ball for an error, slipped trying to recover and wound up with mud all over the front of his uniform as a run scored.
The fans had a hard time keeping their feet, too. In the fifth, two men chased a foul ball behind the plate, lost their balance on a metal walkway and splashed to the ground with a thud. They got an ovation for their effort.
All fans were allowed to move down to the expensive seats. There was no announcement about that over the public-address system - instead they were told individually. The Yankees also said tickets for this game could be redeemed for a free seat during the 2012 season.
The game ended so late, in fact, that the announcers on the Yankees' YES television network kept reminding viewers this was live action, not a post-midnight replay.
This was not, however, the longest delay at Yankee Stadium. In 2009, a game between the Yankees and Washington was held up by rain for nearly 5 1/2 hours.
Several games in the majors were delayed by rain Tuesday on what was already shaping up as a difficult week for New York and the Orioles. The teams are scheduled to play again Wednesday at 1:05 p.m. at Yankee Stadium, then meet in Baltimore on Thursday at 1:05 p.m. for the makeup of a previous rainout.
"Doubleheaders are hard on your guys," Girardi said. "Both scenarios weren't great."
Showalter echoed that sentiment as he looked ahead.
"We're trying to make sure we're competitive. It's not always the people who just played in the game until 2 or 3 in the morning," he said.
Cory Wade (4-0) won in relief. Mariano Rivera earned his 39th save of the season and 598th of his career.
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
Matt Wieters hit a two-run homer for the Orioles.
Chris Piteo of Springfield, Mass., was among the fans who waited out the delay.
"This is my one chance to see a game here this season," he said. "It's not like I can come any day to Yankee Stadium."
With him were his sister, Marcy, and her two sons, ages 12 and 10. They were all aware that Wednesday was a school day back home.
"We're already discussing the options," she said with a smile.
NOTES: The Yankees lead the majors with 200 home runs. ... Baltimore INF Mark Reynolds leads the majors with 27 errors. ... Chris Davis struck out on a breaking ball that bounced off his left foot, but reached first base on the wild pitch by Yankees starter Phil Hughes. ... Yankees DH Jorge Posada connected in the third inning against Hunter. His previous home run also came against Hunter, on Aug. 26. ... Reigning Miss America Teresa Scanlan sang "God Bless America" during the seventh-inning stretch.
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