Dawson's HR in 8th lifts rallying Red Sox over slipping O's, 3-2

May 20, 1994|By Tom Keegan | Tom Keegan,Sun Staff Writer

On the same night Boston center fielder Otis Nixon again showed he can steal more than bases, Red Sox designated hitter Andre Dawson showed why it's always too early to write him off as finished.

Dawson hit his 420th career home run, with two outs and the bases empty in the eighth inning off Orioles left-hander Sid Fernandez, to break a tie and give the Red Sox a 3-2 victory in front of 47,467 last night at Camden Yards.

The Orioles headed for New York for a weekend series with the Yankees on a downer. They have lost five of their past six games and have scored just 15 runs over that stretch. While Boston moved within a half-game of the first-place Yankees in the American League East, the third-place Orioles fell 3 1/2 games back.

They had a trio of veteran Red Sox -- Nixon, Dawson, and right-hander Danny Darwin -- to blame for the latest loss.

Nixon won't ever have to step on a basketball court to prove he can dunk a basketball. He showed it last night at Camden Yards while wearing a pair of spikes, a cap, and a glove that somehow robbed Rafael Palmeiro of what he had earned.

Leading off the sixth with the score tied 2-2, Palmeiro drove what seemed a sure thing to extend his hitting streak to 21 games, give the Orioles a one-run lead, and push Palmeiro's home run total to 11.

Nixon then showed not all the sporting world's great leapers play in the NBA. At least one is in the American League.

Nixon went to the wall, timed his jump perfectly, and pulled Palmeiro's home run out of the books, keeping the score tied and putting Palmeiro's hitting streak in jeopardy.

"He seemed to go up, then extend himself a little higher when he needed to," Dawson said of Nixon.

Palmeiro extended the streak two innings later, but the Orioles' offense remained in a terrible funk.

In the ninth inning, Orioles manager Johnny Oates resorted to having a power hitter try to get down a bunt to generate some offense.

Cal Ripken, the potential tying run, stood on first base with nobody out. Chris Hoiles stood at the plate. Boston closer Jeff Russell stood on the mound.

Hoiles squared to bunt once. Foul ball. Hoiles squared to bunt a second time. Foul ball. Behind on the count 0-and-2, Hoiles fouled two back. Then he swung and missed for the third strike. Leo Gomez struck out swinging and Mark McLemore flied to left, giving Russell his 10th save.

"There are so many reasons to bunt there," Oates said. "We weren't scoring any runs. He hasn't been swinging the bat well lately. I'm trying to play for one run there. I've got to try something."

Hoiles struck out for the fourth time in five career at-bats against Russell.

Palmeiro's streak endured when he reached on a broken-bat, bloop double to center with two outs in the eighth inning, but was stranded there when Harold Baines flied to left.

Darwin (7-2, 4.42) limited the Orioles to two runs in seven innings for the victory, left-hander Chris Howard pitched the eighth and Russell earned his 10th save with a scoreless ninth.

Fernandez (2-2, 3.40) pitched eight innings and faced one batter the ninth. He allowed seven hits, walked one and struck out six. He received a warm ovation from a chilly crowd, but one pitch to Dawson kept that from making him feel any better about the night.

Dawson's eighth home run of the season and third in his past four games came on a 1-2 pitch.

Seconds before he hit it, HTS commentator Jim Palmer, who never stops thinking as if he were the man facing the hitter, warned that Fernandez had to consider pitching around Dawson because he could hurt him with one swing of the bat. Billy Hatcher, the man on deck, was not nearly as likely to do the same.

Fernandez didn't have a feed of the broadcast in his ear and Dawson was allowed to keep a bat in his hands.

"I wasn't going to pitch around him," said Fernandez.

Dawson hit four home runs off Fernandez during their days in the National League.

"The thing you try to do against Fernandez is go up there and be patient and wait for him to throw you a strike," Dawson said. "It's hard to be patient against him because his ball moves so much."

Said Oates: "You can't fault the pitching. We've got to get the bats going and take the pressure off our pitchers."

Fernandez had a 2-0 lead going into the sixth inning, when the normally reliable Orioles defense broke down and played a part in the Red Sox tying the game.

Nixon led off the inning with a bunt single, bringing up Scott Fletcher. Left fielder Brady Anderson, a model of aggressive efficiency in the outfield all season, made a rare mistake, playing Fletcher's single into a triple.

Instead of letting the hit fall in front of him for a single that would have put runners on first and second, Anderson made a diving attempt at it and it got past him for a run-scoring triple.

"When I was running I thought I could get it and it died on me," Anderson said.

Said Oates: "I cannot knock his defense. That's one thing that comes to the ballpark every day for us."

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