BOSTON -- Ben McDonald was bringing it, but he didn't stay around long enough to bring it home. He was on his game one inning, out of the game the next, and the ensuing Fenway Park free-for-all did not go the way of the Orioles.
McDonald took a one-hitter into the sixth, but was icing his arm when reliever Mark Williamson gave up a tie-breaking two-run single to Jody Reed two innings later. The Red Sox went on to score a 6-5 victory and even the series at a game apiece.
The Orioles remain on the hard-luck highway. They've lost four of their first five away games and have to look well down the road to see their next extended homestand. They are in the midst of a 19-game string that includes only one home series -- a four-game set against the Detroit Tigers this weekend.
What made yesterday's game so difficult for them to swallow was the number of positive developments that still added up to defeat:
* Leadoff hitter Brady Anderson had two triples, a double and two RBI in one of his better offensive performances. He needed some help from the bright sky and the friendly left-field fence, but he raised his batting average to .276 and his on-base percentage to a solid .389.
* Catcher Chris Hoiles had three hits, matched a career high with three runs scored, hit his first homer of the season and raised his batting average to .308.
* Utility man Mark McLemore delivered a two-out pinch double off the Green Monster to drive in a run and spark a three-run comeback in the seventh inning.
The afternoon had looked so promising. McDonald was coming off an outstanding two-hit performance against the Cleveland Indians and he was just as overpowering in the early innings of his first appearance against the Red Sox since 1990. If his control had been as good as his stuff, he might have thrown zeros all day, but he hurt himself with six walks and appeared to let the game get away in a three-run Boston sixth.
"He had outstanding stuff," manager Johnny Oates said. "He just stopped hitting his spots at the end. Most of his pitches [in the sixth] were right down the middle of the plate."
McDonald threw as many pitches in 5 2/3 innings as he had in his complete-game shutout last week, but he labored only in the sixth. The Red Sox loaded the bases with one out and broke a 1-1 tie with a sacrifice fly by Tom Brunansky. Mo Vaughn followed with a line drive off the wall in left-center to give Boston a three-run lead.
"I just got myself in trouble by putting people on base," said McDonald, who has walked 10 batters during nine innings in two career starts in Boston. "That's the most aggravating thing. You know that you're going to get hit around sometimes. That's part of being a pitcher. But putting guys on like that is really aggravating to me."
The thing that really aggravated Oates was the sloppy rundown play that changed the way the inning developed. The Red Sox put runners on first and third with a leadoff walk and a hit-and-run single before Ellis Burks pulled a grounder to third. Reed broke for the plate to prevent the double play and kept the Orioles throwing the ball until the other two runners were at second and third.
That forced Oates to order an intentional walk to Phil Plantier to set up the double play -- a walk that would cost the Orioles an extra runon Vaughn's double.
The Orioles staged a resourceful three-run comeback to tie the score in the seventh, getting consecutive run-scoring hits from McLemore, Anderson and Joe Orsulak, only to cede the momentum to the Red Sox an inning later.
Middle reliever Storm Davis came on to get out of the sixth inning and pitch a scoreless seventh, but he gave up back-to-back singles to Brunansky and Vaughn to open the eighth. That's when the managerial wheels really started to turn.
Red Sox manager Butch Hobson asked shortstop Tim Naehring to bunt the runners over, then sent up Herm Winningham to pinch hit. Oates kept Davis in and brought the infield up, getting Winningham on a ground ball to third and putting the Orioles in position to walk Wade Boggs intentionally.
Enter Williamson, who got two quick strikes on Reed, but served up a 1-2 slider that Reed lifted over second base for the decisive runs. The ball wasn't hit hard, but Williamson felt it just as deeply as if it had hung up in the screen above the Monster.
"It was a [bad] pitch," he said. "It was a slider that stayed inside. He hit it off his fists, but if I make a good pitch there, maybe he
doesn't hit it at all."
The pitch was up and on the inside part of the plate. Reed, who has had his share of big hits against the Orioles during the past few years, fought it off to put the Red Sox back on top and put reliever Greg Harris in position for his first victory of the season.
Oates had the numbers to back his decision to bring Williamson on in that situation. Reed had eight hits in 24 career at-bats (.333) against Davis. He was only 1-for-8 against Williamson.