Ripken's flare saves O's, 3-2 Boston walks Surhoff to face Iron Man, but his single foils strategy

1-11 skid comes to halt

Benitez gets 10th save

Alomar homers in first

July 10, 1998|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

On Tuesday, he started his 16th straight All-Star Game. Last night, Cal Ripken could have become an easy way out for manager Jimy Williams and the Boston Red Sox. Except this time the Iron Man didn't bend.

Foiling Williams' eighth-inning strategy that saw B. J. Surhoff intentionally walked to reach the Orioles' No. 7 hitter with two outs, Ripken looped an RBI single off Jim Corsi (2-1) to score Eric Davis for the decisive run in the Orioles' 3-2 win before 48,014 at Camden Yards. In the course of a 39-50 season that has consistently flogged the Orioles in close situations, Ripken's flare at least broke a crushing string of one-run losses. It also halted a 1-11 slide.

The run came an inning too late for Orioles starter Mike Mussina but rewarded Jesse Orosco (2-1) for a scoreless eighth inning in his 992nd career appearance.

Four days removed from his 2,800th career hit, Ripken stemmed a 6-for-38 skid. His opportunity arrived after Davis hustled a looping fly ball into a leadoff double and took third on Rafael Palmeiro's fly ball to deep center field.

Corsi got close to an exit when he got right fielder Joe Carter to

line weakly to third base for the second out. Williams then ordered the Surhoff walk to bring up the right-handed Ripken. After working the count to 2-2, Ripken dumped a single over shortstop to score Davis.

Armando Benitez closed the game for his 10th save. He followed Orosco after John Valentin's leadoff single then retired all three hitters faced, including Midre Cummings on a warning track fly ball as the last out.

Part of the Orioles' recent doldrums had been a power outage. They had hit no more than one home run in any of their past 12 games. Against Red Sox starter Bret Saberhagen they destroyed that trend in three innings as Alomar, the All-Star Game Most Valuable Player, and Mike Bordick hit home runs the first time through the order.

However, a third-inning rally collapsed when Joe Carter extended a miserable night by leaving runners in scoring position.

Carter, a career .350 hitter against Saberhagen, had grounded out with Brady Anderson on second base to end the first inning. He returned with the bases loaded and one out in the third after Williams ordered Rafael Pameiro intentionally walked.

The free-swinging Carter's summertime allergies include bases on balls as only catcher Lenny Webster possesses a lower on-base percentage. Saberhagen fell behind 2-0 then fed the right fielder a high fastball. Carter couldn't resist and gave Saberhagen a much-needed strike on a check swing.

Saberhagen induced a ground ball to shortstop on the next pitch that Nomar Garciaparra and Mike Benjamin turned into an inning-ending double play. The at-bat left Carter with 12 RBI in 150 at-bats against right-handed pitching. He finished the game having failed to advance any of seven runners.

While the rest of the league waits for Saberhagen's surgically repaired right arm to fall apart, he continues toward a mid-season revival. In his past eight starts, he has allowed more than three earned runs only once while yielding only two earned runs in 18 innings covering his past three starts.

The Orioles tried to beat him with aggressive base running. Anderson stole his fifth base in two games. Davis took second base on a nonchalant throw from the outfield only to be stranded in the third inning.

Pitching with a 2-0 lead, Mussina saw it cut in half when third baseman John Valentin led off the fourth inning with an opposite-field home run over the scoreboard. Valentin, guessing he would receive an outside fastball, leaned noticeably over the plate to power his 11th home run.

The rest of the lead left in the fifth inning. With one out, right fielder Darren Bragg drove his fifth home run four rows deep into the left-field seats. Two hitters later, Mo Vaughn doubled, giving the Red Sox extra bases on each of their five hits.

Williams threw reliever Derek Lowe into the game. In 26 appearances, including 10 starts, Lowe had accomplished the unlikely feat of going 0-7. All his losses came as a starter. Against the Orioles, he pushed through two scoreless innings as Mussina stemmed the Red Sox' extra-base attack.

Only 3-4 at home, Mussina had surrendered three runs or fewer in four of his previous five starts yet was only 2-2 in the span. When manager Ray Miller lifted him after seven innings and 106 pitches, it left Mussina with only one win at Camden Yards since May 3 and he is 2-3 since returning from his second stay on the disabled list June 6. In his past six starts, Mussina has a 3.46 ERA yet has had his win percentage dive.

Mussina's exit after retiring seven consecutive hitters appeared the result of early sins. He walked three in the first two innings before rallying to strike out Troy O'Leary and Darren Lewis to end the threats. Miller has allowed Mussina to go beyond 116 pitches only twice this season -- none since May 19. Last night was the second straight game Mussina had left with the score tied at 2. He dueled Andy Pettitte for 7 1/3 innings last Friday. The Orioles eventually lost in the ninth inning.

Orioles tonight

Opponent: Boston Red Sox

Site: Camden Yards

Time: 7: 35 TV/Radio: Ch. 13/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: Red Sox's Pedro Martinez (11-2, 2.87) vs. O's Scott Erickson (8-7, 4.24)

Tickets: About 200 remain

Pub Date: 7/10/98

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