BOSTON -- If they were laid end to end, the two home runs hit last night by Glenn Davis and Leo Gomez would have stretched from Fenway Park to Fanueil Hall, but the tale of the tape didn't tell the whole story.
The Baltimore Orioles played long ball and still came up short, thanks to a drop shot by Jack Clark that gave the Boston Red Sox a 4-3 victory.
Clark hit a slicing fly ball that drifted into the first row of seats behind the foul pole in right field to break a 3-3 tie in the sixth inning and send right-hander Jose Mesa to his 11th loss of the season.
Davis hit a line drive into the screen about 45 feet above the 379 sign in left-center field. Gomez nearly knocked out some lights above left field. But Clark's decisive homer cleared the fence at the shallowest point in a cozy ballpark. The right-field foul pole stands just 302 feet from home plate.
The Red Sox remained on the heels of the first-place Toronto Blue Jays. The Orioles missed a chance to take advantage of another loss by the New York Yankees and move into fifth place, though Mesa pitched a decent six innings in his longest outing since Aug. 15.
Mesa gave up four runs on six hits over six innings of work. Red Sox rookie Kevin Morton (6-3) also went six, giving up three runs on six hits before giving way to Greg Harris and eventually stopper Jeff Reardon, who pitched a scoreless ninth to record his 40th save of the year.
The Orioles still don't know what to make of Mesa, who has been just erratic enough to cast doubt on his physical well-being. He has made three starts since coming off the disabled list (sore elbow) on Sept. 7, but last night was the first one in which he lasted more than four innings.
Mesa admitted afterward that his arm is only "80 percent," but defended his desire to pitch through the lingering elbow soreness because he needs to build up endurance.
"My elbow has been bothering me a little bit the last two or three starts," Mesa said. "It started when I was at Rochester. When I went on the DL, it got a lot better."
The soreness recurred after he returned to the rotation on Sept. 7, but he says that his arm has felt progressively better the last two times out.
Apparently, Mesa has not been so forthcoming about his condition with the coaching staff. He has been telling manager John Oates and pitching coach Al Jackson that his arm is fine. Oates said he will sit down with Mesa today to discuss the situation.
"Healthwise, I wouldn't be sending him out there if he was hurt," Oates said.
Jackson expressed concern before the game that Mesa's arm might not be 100 percent, but he based it upon the four-inning, six-walk performance turned in by Mesa in his previous start.
"I'm just hoping that he is fully recovered from the injury he had," Jackson said. "He's been throwing like a guy with a sore arm, but he's throwing in the 90s, so how can he have a sore arm?"
Interesting paradox. Mesa already has beaten the odds once. He underwent a "Tommy John" tendon transplant to repair his pitching elbow a couple of years ago and came back to throw as hard as ever. But he never has had picture perfect pitching mechanics.
"It's hard to say," Jackson said. "If he threw one pitch 94 [mph] and the next one was 82, you'd know something is wrong and you'd make a decision. But it isn't like that."
"He says he fine. If he said it was bothering him, I think we would shut it down."
The Orioles have done that with right-hander Ben McDonald, who made two starts after suffering a bruised shoulder on Aug. 28. He finally was scratched from his remaining 1991 starts after an arthrogram revealed a small tear in his shoulder.
McDonald has been open about his physical condition. Mesa has not been so quick to admit a problem, though he has to know that the final few starts of a lost season don't amount to much when they are weighed against his -- and the organization's -- future.
"I think he knows that," Jackson said. "Guys who have been hurt before have a tendency to hide things. But the other time, he did come up and tell us he was hurting."
He took the mound last night with a two-run lead. Cal Ripken drew a two-out walk in the top of the first and Davis drove a long home run into the screen above the fence in left-center for his eighth home run of the year.
The Orioles continued to play long ball with Morton in the second inning, increasing their lead to 3-0 when Gomez crushed a ball that cleared the screen and hit halfway up the light standard above left field.
It has been a month of homermania for the Orioles, who have hit 27 of them in the first 2 1/2 weeks of September to lead the major leagues. The Orioles have homered in nine straight games and have out homered the opposition, 23-4, since Sept. 6.
Gomez leads American League rookies with 14 home runs and is tied with Houston Astros catcher Jeff Bagwell for the major-league lead among rookies. Davis has four home runs and 17 RBI since returning from a four-month stay on the disabled list on Aug. 19.