BOSTON -- The Baltimore Orioles have proved that they can play long ball with the best of them, but playing catch-up is another story.
Cal Ripken and Leo Gomez conquered Fenway Park's Green Monster last night, but that would not be enough to overcome an early five-run deficit. The Boston Red Sox held on to score a 7-5 victory and keep the pressure on the first-place Toronto Blue Jays.
Ripken hit his 30th home run of the season in the sixth inning, becoming the fourth shortstop in major-league history to hit 30 or more. He also became the eighth Orioles player to have a 30-homer season.
"People have always categorized me as an offensive player, and when you're hitting, it doesn't matter what position you play," Ripken said, "but 30 home runs feels good. I've thought about it a little bit, wondering if I could do it."
The Orioles continue to hit the long ball with surprising regularity. The two home runs last night increased their season total to 157, second in the major leagues to the Detroit Tigers.
Gomez had gotten the Orioles on the scoreboard an inning earlier with his second home run of the series, but the hole was too deep again. The club has made a habit of dropping behind early and rallying to make it close. Close, but no cigar.
The Red Sox are playing for a pennant. They have closed to within striking range of the Blue Jays and have the schedule on their side. The Orioles are playing for their future, but last night's game was another reminder of the club's checkered past.
It was the quintessential '91 Orioles defeat. Another false start. Another false comeback. Another series lost.
Orioles starter Dave Johnson was hoping to make a better impression in his first starting assignment since Sept. 2, but he lasted just 2 1/3 innings and allowed 10 runners before giving way to long reliever Anthony Telford.
"There are some nights when you have good stuff and get hit, anyway," Johnson said. "Unfortunately, this wasn't one of those nights.
"This was one of those times when I had absolutely no clue. I threw 40 pitches and two were where I wanted them. When I did make a good pitch, it was by accident and then they hit it, anyway."
The Red Sox scored two runs in the first on an RBI single by Phil Plantier and a run-scoring double by Mo Vaughn. Boston added another run in the second on an RBI single by Jody Reed. In each of the first two innings, the Red Sox might have gotten more if they had not been strong-armed by Orioles outfielder Joe Orsulak.
Orsulak set a club record with his 18th outfield assist when he threw out Plantier at the plate to end the first inning. He added to his record total with a perfect throw to get Wade Boggs at third and end the second.
Johnson retired the leadoff batter in the third, but walked Jack Clark and gave up a couple of ground-ball singles for another run before manager John Oates went to his bullpen. Telford came on to give up an RBI single to Steve Lyons, which gave the Red Sox a five-run lead.
"I never want to come out of a game," Johnson said, "but when Johnny came out there, it was like, 'What took you so long?' "
Johnson is tentatively scheduled to make two more starts, but Oates said after the game that he will discuss the situation with pitching coach Al Jackson today and decide whether Johnson or Telford would best serve the club in the rotation.
"I don't know whether it was inactivity or not, but from the first pitch, he [Johnson] couldn't get the ball where he wanted it," Oates said. "Maybe it was just lack of time on the mound."
It was the 38th time that the Orioles have fallen behind by three runs or more in the first three innings, a statistic that probably sums up the season as well as any. But they did not go quietly this time.
Glenn Davis led off the fifth inning with a single, and Gomez drove a ball into the screen above the Green Monster in left-center field for the second night in a row. It was the 15th homer of the year for Gomez, who took over the major-league home run lead among rookies.
Telford gave up a bases-empty home run to Clark in the bottom of the fifth, but the Orioles got back into the game with three runs in the sixth, the first courtesy of Ripken's 30th home run of the year.
Red Sox starter Mike Gardiner had pitched well through four innings, but the home runs in the fifth and sixth hastened his departure from the game. He left after giving up a two-out walk to Davis in the sixth, but the Orioles went on to score two more runs and make it a one-run game.
Davis stole second and went to third on a throwing error by catcher John Marzano. He scored when Chito Martinez pulled a ground ball wide of first and Vaughn made a poor flip to reliever Dan Petry covering the bag. Martinez went to third on a bloop single by Gomez and scored when Petry bounced a curveball to the backstop.