BOSTON -- It all happened so fast that Baltimore Orioles JTC right-hander Jose Mesa didn't have time to adjust. Maybe he didn't have the right idea. Maybe he didn't have the right stuff. Maybe he just came up against the wrong team.
The only thing he could be sure of was the outcome. The Boston Red Sox scored six runs in the first two innings and ended the Orioles' three-game winning streak with a 7-2 victory last night at Fenway Park.
Mesa, who has had trouble in the early innings on a couple of other occasions recently, gave up base hits to the first four batters he faced and never recovered. Red Sox rookie Mike Gardiner was another story, working a solid seven innings in earning is first major-league victory.
"Jose got kind of fastball-happy there in the first inning, and they are a fastball-hitting ballclub," Orioles manager John Oates said. "He stayed with the fastball early and got in trouble in Detroit [May 21]. We've been trying to get him to use all his pitches early. If he goes with just the hard stuff -- the fastball and the slider -- they are going to catch up with him."
The Orioles right-hander has fallen behind in the first two innings three times in his past four starts. He gave up three runs to the Detroit Tigers before settling down to pitch into the seventh inning. He gave up five runs in 1 1/3 innings against the Oakland Athletics in the start before that.
"I just went out there tonight and tried to get ahead of the hitters," Mesa said. "I tried to throw strikes, but they just jumped on the fastball. I didn't have great pop tonight, but I felt pretty good."
He was not sharp with his breaking stuff, so the Red Sox were waiting on the fastball. Mesa gave up back-to-back solid singles to open Boston's first inning. Wade Boggs loaded the bases with an infield hit, and Tom Brunansky drove a 2-2 fastball up the alley in left-center to bring home two runs.
The Red Sox got an additional run on an out and the final run of the inning on a wild pitch. That would turn out to be all Gardiner would need to make a successful debut in the Red Sox rotation.
"Their kid pitched well," Oates said. "He spotted the ball well, and he kept it down. Jose didn't have a great curveball tonight. Very few pitchers can go out there and throw all fastballs and get away with it."
The Orioles weren't figured to win every game here, but they had hoped to take advantage of a glitch in the Boston Red Sox starting rotation and guarantee themselves a split of the four-game series after winning Thursday night.
Gardiner was recalled from the minor leagues to start in place of the injured Dana Kiecker. But that did not turn out to be a break for the Orioles, who made the least of some early scoring opportunities and went quietly the rest of the way.
The Orioles came into the game on their first real upswing of the season, but it did not take long for the Red Sox to put them back in their place.
Mesa once was the mainstay of a struggling rotation, but he has pitched really well only once in his past five starts. Since his seven-hit shutout May 6, he is 1-2 with a 6.44 ERA.
This time, he gave up seven runs on 11 hits over 6 1/3 innings, although most of the damage was done on the front end of his performance. He pitched well from the third inning into the seventh -- it just didn't matter by then.
But the Orioles had a chance to bounce right back in the early innings against Gardiner, who set himself up for a fall in the second and needed some help from the Green Monster to avoid it.
He walked Dwight Evans and Sam Horn with one out and gave up a line shot to left field by Randy Milligan that would have been a three-run homer in every major-league park but Fenway. The ball hit a few feet below the top of the wall and caromed to center fielder Ellis Burks. Milligan settled for the longest RBI single of his career, and the Orioles settled for one run when Bob Melvin took them out of the inning with a double-play grounder to short.
Gardiner seemed intent on giving back the big lead. He went 3-0 on the count to Melvin, but got him to bite on a 3-1 pitch at a pivotal juncture in the game.
Mesa wasted no time getting himself in trouble again in the second, giving up a leadoff single to Tony Pena and a one-out line drive to Jody Reed that center fielder Mike Devereaux played into a triple.
The play could easily have been ruled a single and an error. Devereaux charged hard and then let the ball skip by him and roll to the warning track in center. But it was hard to fault him for the aggressive play, since the Orioles were down three runs and a catch or short-hop might have kept Pena from scoring from second.
Instead, Pena scored and Reed came home on an out to put Boston ahead, 6-1. The Orioles came back with a run in the third on an RBI single by Cal Ripken, but the deficit was too large.
Mesa stayed around for most of the evening, but that was just to preserve the bullpen. He still turned in the worst performance by an Orioles starter since Ben McDonald gave up six runs to the Tigers in the second inning of Frank Robinson's last game as manager.