The Baltimore Orioles apparently are equal-opportunity unspoilers.
No sooner had they lifted the Toronto Blue Jays back into the thick of the American League East race than they returned to Memorial Stadium to give the slumping Boston Red Sox a nudge in the right direction.
The Red Sox have watched their division lead dwindle to one game, but they held onto that last night with a 7-3 victory over the Orioles that broke a four-game losing streak.
It wasn't pretty. The normally dependable Baltimore defense committed four errors in a game for the first time this year, and Orioles pitchers complicated matters with a season-high three wild pitches. The loss mathematically eliminated the Orioles from the division race, as if there had been any doubt the past four weeks.
Former Baltimore right-hander Mike Boddicker scattered seven hits over six innings on the way to his 16th victory of the year and his fourth win in four 1990 starts against the Orioles.
Rookie starter Ben McDonald, facing Boddicker for the second time in a month, struggled with his control and didn't get out of the fourth inning. He does not pitch poorly very often, but he made another exception for the Red Sox and fell to 7-5 with the loss.
He had seen this all before. He had made only one really bad start before last night, and that was at Fenway Park in August. That was at a time when the Orioles still were within striking distance of the first-place Red Sox, but McDonald was not right.
He had suffered back spasms a couple of days before the game and had trouble getting loose, so it shouldn't have been such a surprise when the Red Sox scored five times in the fourth inning to knock him out of the game. The loss dropped the Orioles eight games off the pace and began a downward trend that still is in progress.
It continued last night when McDonald turned in a similar outing, lasting 3 2/3 innings and giving up five runs. He struggled with his control again, too, handing out five walks -- three of which led directly to Red Sox scores.
Just how similar was it to his first appearance against the Red Sox? McDonald also pitched 3 2/3 innings the first time and gave up five runs. He threw 84 pitches the first time and 83 last night. He said the back problem is behind him (no pun intended), but was wearing a hot pack over the area before the game.
McDonald walked two of the first three batters he faced in the third inning, mixing in a single by Jody Reed to load the bases with nobody out. Dwight Evans gave the Red Sox the lead with a sacrifice fly to right and Wade Boggs followed with another sacrifice fly for the second run of the inning.
Walks also played a major role in the three-run fourth. Kevin Romine took a one-out base on balls and went to third on a double by Mike Marshall. He scored on a wild pitch, but that became academic when Tony Pena hit a double to right-center that would have scored both runners, anyway.
McDonald left the game after the Red Sox scored their fifth run on an error by rookie third baseman Leo Gomez, who badly misplayed a sharp bouncer by Evans. Gomez was making his major-league debut and he lived up to his great-bat, so-so glove scouting report with two hits and two errors.
It looked as if Boddicker had everything going his way at that point, but he ran into trouble in the fifth, when the Orioles came back with three runs -- two of them on a long double by former Red Sox first baseman Sam Horn.
Brady Anderson walked with one out, and Cal Ripken poked a single through the right side of the infield. Horn pulled a line drive up the alley to bring home both runners, then scored on a double by Mickey Tettleton. Gomez followed with his second hit of the game to put runners at first and third with one out, but three was all the Orioles were going to get. Tettleton was thrown out at the plate trying to score on a ground ball to first by David Segui, and Boddicker got Jeff McKnight to ground out to first to end the inning.