O's catch-up game fails, 8-7 Red Sox hold on

loss is 4th straight

July 31, 1993|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Staff Writer

Sometimes, even a comeback can be cruel.

The Orioles turned a blowout into a one-run game last night, but the Boston Red Sox held on to score an 8-7 victory in the opener of an important three-game series at Camden Yards.

How cruel? The Orioles cut a six-run deficit to two and had the bases loaded with nobody out in the bottom of the eighth inning, but came up short.

How close? Close enough that a poor decision by third-base coach Mike Ferraro in the second inning would loom large after the Orioles missed a chance to pull back to within three games of first place in the American League East.

How frustrating? Not even a five-RBI performance by Harold Baines -- which included his eighth career grand slam -- could pull the Orioles back from their fourth straight loss.

Instead, the red-hot Red Sox kept rolling along, winning for the 13th time in the past 15 games to pull within a half-game of the division lead shared by the Toronto Blue Jays and New York Yankees.

Maybe manager Johnny Oates would have been smiling under different circumstances. The Orioles did stage a valiant comeback in a game that appeared to be lost early. But there is too much at stake for anything to be a moral victory now.

"I don't get a whole lot of satisfaction out of coming close," Oates said, "especially four games in a row. I may act like that sometimes for the benefit of the players, but I'm not a very good loser."

The Orioles came close, but when it came down to it, stopper Jeff Russell retired the side in order in the ninth to record his 27th save and send them to their third straight one-run defeat.

"We're battling," Oates said, "but we came up short. We still have some work to do. The teams that win those games consistently win pennants. The teams that don't are also-rans."

When it was over, the club could look back on a number of pivotal moments that might have made the difference. Ferraro let Jeffrey Hammonds try to score with no outs in the second inning, but Hammonds was thrown out. Mike Devereaux struck out on three pitches with the bases loaded and no one out in the eighth. The Orioles left 11 runners on base. It just wasn't meant to be.

"There were a lot of things that went awry tonight," Oates said. "What I'd like to say is, there were a few instances when we had a chance to win the ballgame and we didn't do it."

He could say that about each of the past four games. The Orioles left nine runners on base in a 5-2 loss to the Minnesota Twins on Sunday. They came from behind only to blow a two-run lead in the eighth against the Blue Jays on Tuesday night. They made two errors in the 10th inning to complete a come-from- ahead loss to Toronto in the series finale at SkyDome.

Starter Jamie Moyer came into last night's game on an amazing roll, but he ran into a team even hotter than he was. He had won seven of his previous eight decisions to play a starring role in the Orioles' midseason march back into contention, only to be run over by a club that is 28-7 (.800) in its past 35 games.

The Red Sox didn't wait long to show why, scoring in each of the first three innings to turn it into an apparent rout. They scored three times in the first inning and one in the second before breaking the game open with a four-run rally in the third.

Moyer (7-5) lasted two-plus innings and gave up seven earned runs to suffer only his second loss since May 30.

"We got in a hole early, and I didn't help the cause any," Moyer said. "I just made some bad pitches to good hitters. I also made some good pitches and they hit them."

Center fielder Billy Hatcher was on the front end of both of the big early-inning rallies. He singled with one out in the first inning before Mike Greenwell walked and designated hitter Andre Dawson launched a three-run homer to left.

Boston added a run in the second on Tony Pena's second home run of year and then reeled off four more before there was an out in the third.

Hatcher, who is batting .392 in his past 30 games, led off the inning with a hit. Greenwell followed with a single, and Dawson struck again -- lining a double into the left-field corner for his fourth and fifth RBI of the game.

Reliever Alan Mills took over after the two-run double, but things got worse before they got better. Mo Vaughn greeted him with Boston's third home run of the game, a mammoth two-run shot that increased his team-leading RBI total to 72.

The Orioles' offense wasn't exactly dormant during the early innings, either. Cal Ripken opened the second with his 16th home run of the year and Tim Hulett singled home a run later in the inning.

Red Sox starter Frank Viola struggled with the strike zone, but wriggled out of a bases-loaded jam in the third before his control trouble caught up with him in the fourth. He handed out a pair of two-out walks before an infield single by Devereaux loaded the bases for Baines, who cleared them.

The home run was his 10th of the year, making him the fifth Oriole to reach double figures.

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