Orioles' victory comes out of left field

June 11, 1994|By Tom Keegan | Tom Keegan,Sun Staff Writer

BOSTON -- Chris Sabo conquered a monster, a new position, the Boston Red Sox, and maybe even a villainous image in the eyes of Baltimore's baseball fans.

He did all that in one night.

A third baseman for all of his seven major-league seasons, Sabo made his outfield debut in front of 33,673 at Fenway Park.

Did he ever. Sabo threw out a runner at the plate and passed test after test in front of the Green Monster.

Oh yeah, he did one more thing.

Sabo hit the game-winning home run, drilling a two-run shot over the center-field fence in the eighth inning, lifting the Orioles to a 10-7 victory over the Red Sox last night at Fenway, a charming old ballpark Sabo ranked with Wrigley Field as one of his two favorites, a park he loved the moment he laid eyes on it.

Thanks to the man who wants to play third base on an every day basis somewhere else, the Orioles moved out of third place in the American League East for the first time since May 11. They are tied with the Red Sox for second place, two games behind the division-leading New York Yankees, who lost, 7-2, to the Toronto Blue Jays last night.

And they have a new left fielder.

"I just try to have fun and go with it," said a surprisingly somber Sabo. "I enjoy playing. I always have."

No need to get carried away. Sabo is no Carl Yastrzemski. But even Yaz would be proud of the job Sabo did last night.

Mike Schmidt wishes he could have played left field the way Sabo did.

By the time Sabo returned to his locker after having a post-game meal in the clubhouse, teammate Rafael Palmeiro had put a piece of tape reading "Yaz" on his locker.

Sabo's no Yaz, but if his performance in his first appearance in a game in eight days was an accurate indication, he's no bench player either.

Sabo, who told Orioles manager Johnny Oates last week he did not "feel comfortable" playing third base and expressed his distaste for the designated hitter role, looked like a natural in left field.

He handled seven chances without botching one. His first chance came in the first inning, when he bare-handed John Valentin's hit off the wall and fired a perfect one-hop throw to second to limit him to a single. In the seventh, he threw out Scott Cooper, who was attempting to score on Carlos Rodriguez's single to shallow left.

Third base coach Gary Allenson decided to test Sabo's arm, sending Cooper into the easy out at home and preserving a 6-6 tie.

Sabo threw like a third baseman, firing the ball home without stepping into the throw. But if he didn't receive points for style, he certainly graded out high for substance.

Otis Nixon drove home Rodriguez later in the inning to give Boston a 7-6 lead. No problem. Sabo carried more than an outfielder's glove to the park last night. He also brought a bat.

After a run-scoring double by Brady Anderson, Sabo hit his third home run, off of right-handed reliever Ken Ryan with one on, to give the Orioles a 9-7 lead.

As he crossed home plate, Sabo blew a kiss to the fans who booed him.

"Just wanted to show them how much I appreciated them," Sabo said.

For the night, Sabo homered, singled, drove in two runs, was hit by a pitch, and scored two runs.

He came out of the game in the bottom of the ninth, giving way to defensive replacement Jack Voigt.

If Oates enjoyed watching Sabo, he for some reason had trouble expressing it.

"He did OK for a guy who never played out there," Oates said.

By the time Sabo came out of the game, the Orioles had hammered Red Sox starter Danny Darwin and five relievers for 20 hits.

The teams combined for 37 hits, the 1994 high for a nine-inning American League game. The game, which lasted four hours and three minutes, was the second-longest nine-inning game of the season in the AL, one minute shorter than the Orioles' April 17 game against the Texas Rangers.

All 18 starters had at least one hit.

This was a hitter's night, all right. Orioles right-hander Mike Oquist (2-1) earned the win. He scattered seven hits over 3 1/3 innings in relief of left-hander Jamie Moyer and allowed one run.

Lee Smith earned his 24th save in 26 tries, and Sabo had plenty of help offensively.

Mark McLemore contributed four hits and Anderson and Ripken had three apiece. Leo Gomez, the Orioles' starting third baseman, drove in two runs, giving him 28 in his past 32 games.

In his latest attempt to breathe life into an offense that ranks second-last in the league in runs scored, Oates inserted Sabo into the No. 2 hole in the lineup and played him in left field.

The offense clicked, but so did Boston's.

How's this for a paradox? Moyer allowed the Red Sox eight hits and six earned runs and managed to become public enemy No. 1 in Boston for a night.

How?

Mo Vaughn, who homered in the first inning with one on to give the Red Sox a 2-0 lead, was hit by Moyer his next two trips to the plate. The first time, Vaughn took a couple of steps toward the mound and jawed at Moyer. The next time, Vaughn walked very deliberately to first base.

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