BOSTON -- It isn't a style to which they have become accustomed, but the Red Sox understand they have to force the issue if they're going to catch the Toronto Blue Jays.
It's not a new look as much as it is a necessary look. With 16 games to play, a 2 1/2 -game deficit to make up and a few injuries to camouflage, the Red Sox don't have the luxury of waiting for things to happen.
"We think we're the best team in the Eastern Division," said emergency outfielder Steve Lyons, "and we want to represent it [in the playoffs]."
That means applying pressure to the opposition as well as to the Blue Jays, currently playing on the West Coast, three hours behind the Red Sox. "Sure it makes a difference," Lyons said when asked if it was an advantage to put a win on the board before the Blue Jays started to play.
"Whether they win or not, it gives them something to think about; it puts a little more pressure on them."
Just like the pressure Lyons and the Red Sox applied to the Orioles last night. They built a 5-0 lead, but still needed a home run by Jack Clark (24) and a manufactured insurance run to squeeze out a 7-5 win.
The last run was mostly the work of Lyons. He coaxed a leadoff walk from Mike Flanagan, then moved around the bases on a sacrifice bunt, a stolen base, and a suicide squeeze bunt by Luis Rivera.
In the scorebook today that run appears academic. Don't be misled. It changed the game's complexion in more ways than one.
Boston manager Joe Morgan had the luxury of letting Greg Harris finish the game, instead of over-extending Jeff Reardon, who had some back soreness the night before.
"I figured it was worth the gamble to try and get one more inning out of Greg," said Morgan. "If they had gotten another baserunner, then it would have been up to Jeff."
Lyons set up the run by stealing third base against Orioles reliever Gregg Olson, a tactic that's becoming standard throughout the American League. "He went on his own," said Morgan. "With the jump he had there isn't a man alive who could've thrown him out. Olson's a little slow [delivering] to the plate."
With Rivera hitting, the squeeze bunt was a very realistic option for Morgan, but he wasn't about to try it until the odds were stacked in his favor. "I knew they would pitch out [which the Orioles did on a 1-and-1 pitch]," he said.
"I was just hoping the count would get to 3-and-1 so I could put it on. They could've still pitched out, but I didn't think they'd do that with [Wade] Boggs hitting next."
It was as if Morgan was reading the mind of Orioles manager John Oates. "When it got to 3-and-1, I told [pitching coach] Al Jackson that if anybody but Boggs was the next hitter, I'd call a pitchout," said Oates.
"But we were still in the game, even if they squeezed the run in and I didn't want to take the chance of putting another runner on base. Then if Boggs hits a double, we're really in trouble."
As it turned out, Rivera put the ball in play, which was all he had to do, as the Red Sox forced the issue and bought Reardon
another day of rest. "He still felt something there [in his back]," said Morgan. "He said he felt better the second time he got up [to throw], but it was good that we could get through without using him."
Staying with Harris, who pitched two innings the night before, was the second pitching gamble of the night for Morgan, and the one that worked.
"I thought about it [making a pitching change before the Orioles got deep into their three-run fifth inning]," said Morgan. "I worried about trying to get him [starter Mike Gardiner] through that lineup one more time, and lo and behold it happened."
Cal Ripken's 30th homer of the year started it, then a rash of poor defensive play by the Red Sox led to two more runs and suddenly it was a 6-5 game with the tying run at second base.
But Dan Petry, Tim Fossas and Harris managed to shut down the Orioles for the last three innings. That was enough to give the Red Sox their 12th win in their last 15 games and their 17th in the last 22.
On that kind of roll, and with the slumping Yankees due in town for three games, you might suspect that Morgan would rather not have today off. But that's not the case.
"We can use a day off," he said. "Especially the bullpen. It should be good for us."