O's dump slumping Red Sox Wells goes distance with 7-hitter, beats Clemens in 6-1 win

Boston falls 8 1/2 behind

Surhoff's fourth HR gets offense going

April 17, 1996|By Buster Olney | Buster Olney,SUN STAFF

The Boston Red Sox may eventually play themselves back into contention. They may someday break the Curse of the Bambino and win a World Series. They may -- praise be -- play an entire game without making a defensive mistake.

But there is no end in sight to the Red Sox's misery, perpetuated last night by David Wells. The left-hander stifled Boston, 6-1, and increased the Orioles' lead over the defending AL East champs to 8 1/2 games, before 40,017 at Camden Yards.

"I feel like the Bad News Bears," said Red Sox manager Kevin Kennedy. "But they came back and won it all, didn't they?"

Orioles third baseman B. J. Surhoff hit a bases-empty homer off Red Sox starter Roger Clemens and Roberto Alomar drove in a couple of runs with a double gift-wrapped by the Boston outfield. Orioles manager Davey Johnson got to see most of the highlights before he was ejected in the seventh inning.

But he wasn't able to shake Wells' hand after the lefty completed his seven-hitter, extending the Boston scoreless string to 23 innings before allowing a run with two outs in the ninth. He dominated the Red Sox, striking out seven, walking none and throwing 84 of his 112 pitches for strikes.

Wells went to three-ball counts only twice, to two-ball counts three times, and he threw only seven balls in the final four innings. He located his fastball expertly, ramming strikes over the inside and outside corners.

Wells said, "Tonight I stayed away from the off-speed stuff. Fastballs in, fastballs away."

Johnson said, "When he's on, he's throwing the ball in and out, and he's as tough as anybody in the game."

Red Sox runners reached scoring position only three times, and only once -- in the ninth -- did one reach third. The only semi-rally was in the sixth, when the Orioles led 2-0. With runners at first and second and two outs, Wil Cordero hit a spinning liner toward the middle, but Alomar flashed over, cradled a short hop and flipped to Cal Ripken to end the threat.

A relief for Wells, who has been hit hard by the Red Sox during his career. "I never feel comfortable against those guys," he said. "Just look at my record against them [3-12 with a 5.00 ERA before last night]. Terrible."

Not last night, when it was Clemens' turn to labor.

Clemens always has embraced his dual role with the Red Sox: the Stopper, the guy who curtails long losing streaks, and the Enforcer, the guy will throw a few messages at about 93 mph, up and in.

Either Clemens was suddenly and unusually wild in the first inning, or he delivered one of those high-speed messages to Alomar, after Brady Anderson led off with a double on an 0-2 pitch.

Alomar, next up, tried and failed to bunt on Clemens' first two pitches. Clemens threw a ball low and away and Alomar reached out over the strike zone and fouled it off.

Clemens' next pitch was high and hard, and had Alomar not tumbled backward, he could have caught the ball with his teeth. Alomar turned over onto all fours and glanced at Clemens, looking stunned. Clemens never changed expression.

"I heard that Roger will occasionally come up and in, and try to intimidate players," Johnson said. "But he isn't going to intimidate anybody over here."

Said Alomar: "I don't want anybody to get hit in the head. If that ball would've hit me, it would've hit me hard. I don't know where I would be, but I think it would be in the hospital. I wish he could play in the National League, where he would have to hit and see what that's like.

"I respect Clemens. But I don't respect him throwing at my head."

Clemens, who later would hit two batters and dropped to 0-3, got out of the inning without allowing any runs, winning that battle to establish the inside part of the plate.

But the Orioles set about winning the war in the second inning. Surhoff, entering the game with a .327 career average against Clemens, worked the count full and Boston catcher Bill Haselman called for a fastball and set his target inside. But Clemens' pitch drifted back over the plate, into the dangerous part of the strike zone, and Surhoff mashed.

His shot barely cleared the wall near the 373 sign in right, Surhoff's fourth homer of the year. Before last year, Surhoff had never hit more than seven homers in any season in his career, and in '95, he hit a modest 13.

The Orioles added another run in their half of the third, when Bonilla scored Alomar with an RBI single, and eventually, Boston's brutal defense manifested itself.

Clemens allowed back-to-back singles to start the seventh, and he was relieved by left-hander Mike Stanton. Anderson tried to drop a sacrifice bunt, but Stanton never gave him a chance, throwing four straight out of the strike zone and loading the bases.

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