The Baltimore Orioles' 6-4 victory over the Boston Red Sox yesterday was a study in what can happen when the best-laid plans of an organization do not materialize in the off-season.
The Red Sox began spring training with the hope that Mo Vaughn would assert himself at first base and win the job.
Vaughn didn't hit, and was sent to the minors. Carlos Quintana, mentioned in trade rumors all off-season, returned to first, his reliable bat assured of a place in a potent lineup.
But Vaughn returned to the Red Sox last week, and with Tom Brunansky taking a respite from the near-100-degree heat, Quintana was in right field yesterday for the first time in nearly a year.
In the sixth inning of a 4-4 game, the Orioles capitalized on that development when Quintana botched a routine, two-out fly ball by Cal Ripken that permitted two runs to score and gave them their second home series victory in 12 this season.
"You've got to take those," said the Orioles' Randy Milligan. "We've given away enough ourselves."
The ball caromed off Quintana's glove and dropped to his side, prompting Boston manager Joe Morgan to say: "It was a simple play, but unfortunately, he missed it. That's it."
Quintana wasn't talking. Orioles manager John Oates said right field at Memorial Stadium "can be tough to play during day games. I don't know if that had anything to do with it or not."
Joe Orsulak and Bill Ripken singled before the misplay, Ripken reaching when Boston catcher Tony Pena wasted too much time looking at second and then fired late to first.
This was more evidence that the Red Sox are going to have to change their erring ways to keep close to the division-leading Toronto Blue Jays, who just solidified their pitching with the acquisition of Tom Candiotti from the Cleveland Indians.
"After a good start, we are having a rough time, and we need to find the right combination -- and soon," said Morgan. "It's hard to believe we started off so good and we are this bad."
Conversely, the Orioles still are trying to climb out of the cavern they created with a poor start, and they are making headway.
Yesterday, Quintana helped them avoid a potential disaster that included a monstrous home run by Vaughn off Jeff Robinson and two-run homer by Mike Greenwell against Kevin Hickey, who has been effective against left-handed hitters.
The same two players carried the Orioles offense, with Cal Ripken and Milligan hitting back-to-back homers off Joe Hesketh in the fifth for three runs after Milligan drove home a third-inning run with a bases-loaded single.
Boston intentionally walked Ripken with first base open in the third to pitch to Milligan, who promptly gave Robinson an early lead.
"You've got the best hitter in the league up. If I were a manager, I'd do the same thing," said Milligan. "You pitch to the next guy, which is me. It's not a vendetta for me. It's just a chance to drive in some runs."
Milligan has been involved the past three times the Orioles have hit consecutive homers.
With Orioles assistant general manager Frank Robinson looking on, Vaughn pounded a Jeff Robinson pitch to within five rows of the top of the right-field stands in the fifth.
Frank Robinson, the only man to hit a ball out of the stadium, wiped his brow afterward and made a mock gesture of pulling the ball back toward the field while it was soaring away.
"I was trying to put a 'Here' flag in on that side of the ballpark to match the one in left," said Jeff Robinson, referring to the flag that marks the spot where Frank Robinson's 1966 shot left the park. "They say Mo Vaughn has great power down and inside. I proved that."
One more run and 1 1/3 innings later, Jeff Robinson departed after issuing a single to Jack Clark. Hickey entered to face Greenwell and allowed his first inherited runner (of 14) to score this season when Greenwell sent a line drive over Joe Orsulak and just into the Boston bullpen in right-center to tie the game.
"I didn't think he hit it that well," said Hickey. "It didn't go that far over the fence. Sometimes you get them, sometimes they get you."
Hickey originally was credited with the victory despite retiring only one hitter. The ruling was changed by the official scorer, who is allowed to credit the victory to another pitcher if, in his judgment, the pitcher of record is ineffective. So the win went to Mark Williamson, who pitched two scoreless innings.
Jeff Robinson was left with another no-decision, although he departed with a two-run lead.
"They say it all evens out," he said. "I've got three more months to catch up."
In his previous start at home on June 19, Robinson left with a 4-3 lead after 7 2/3 innings, but the Orioles lost to the Minnesota Twins. In Cleveland last week, he left with the score tied, 2-2.
"I'm doing some things mechanically that are causing me to lose a little on the fastball," he said. "It's difficult to change like that on the mound, and the last two times I haven't felt like I had great stuff. I was just trying to pitch to the elements with the wind blowing across."
Hickey couldn't keep Robinson the pitcher of record, then was wiped off the slate himself. It was that kind of day.