Orioles survive latest bullpen blunders, 8-7

Baines' RBI in 11th turns back Red Sox

June 29, 2000|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

BOSTON - The Orioles began another phase of their season last night, one without third baseman Cal Ripken. Players were expected to be eliminated with the arrival of a new month. He wasn't supposed to be among them.

While Ripken was in Cleveland getting a magnetic resonance imaging on his lower back, the Orioles were trying to construct their first road winning streak since the end of May. Two unearned runs in the second inning got them started, an uprising in the fifth gave them new life and Jason Johnson offered renewed hope for the future.

But it took a run-scoring double by Harold Baines in the 11th inning to cover the sins of the bullpen and nail down an 8-7 victory over the Boston Red Sox before 33,834 at Fenway Park.

B.J. Surhoff, who earlier had extended his hitting streak to 21 games, led off with a double for his fifth hit. Mark Lewis bunted him over, and Jeff Conine was awarded first base on catcher's interference after flying to shallow right.

Given an extra out, the Orioles took advantage when Baines drove a pitch from Bryce Florie off the Green Monster for an 8-7 lead. Buddy Groom recorded his second save in two nights to end the parade of relievers and the suspense.

Having relinquished their designated hitter after a dizzying series of moves, the Red Sox were forced to send pitchers to the plate in the later innings. Pete Schourek singled off Alan Mills in the ninth and Tim Wakefield laid down a sacrifice bunt against Groom to push the tying run into scoring position with two outs.

The game ended with Red Sox manager Jimy Williams getting thrown out for arguing a strike call, and Israel Alcantara flying to center.

Mike Timlin and Mike Trombley each blew a save, but the Orioles (32-43) still built on the momentum of the previous night, when they stopped a nine-game losing streak. They also have ended a streak of 11 consecutive road series losses.

"A pitch here, a call there, a double play that isn't turned. A lot of games turn on missed opportunities, but we persevered," said manager Mike Hargrove.

Trailing 7-6 in the ninth, the Orioles rallied off Red Sox closer Derek Lowe for the second consecutive night. Surhoff doubled with one out, and Will Clark followed with a liner to center that scooted past diving center fielder Darren Lewis for a triple.

Charles Johnson had broken a 5-5 tie in the eighth by homering off Rod Beck, but three Orioles relievers combined to wipe out the lead that same inning and deprive Jason Johnson of his first win.

Trombley suffered his fifth blown save by giving up two singles in the eighth after replacing Chuck McElroy, who allowed a single to the only batter he faced. Timlin, who fumbled a lead in the seventh, had permitted a leadoff single to hasten his departure. It was a group effort, and not the kind Hargrove had sought.

Unable to find one pitcher who can slam the door consistently without pinching his fingers, Hargrove is going with a late-inning committee to close games.

Trombley might have escaped the eighth-inning jam if Delino DeShields hadn't dropped a throw from Ryan Minor after getting the force at second. Rather than turn a double play, the Orioles lost a 6-5 lead when pinch hitter Scott Hatteberg singled to right. Jose Offerman followed with a single that moved Boston ahead.

Jason Johnson remains stuck at 0-6. He shut out Boston on two hits over seven innings in an earlier start in Baltimore, only to accept a no-decision when the bullpen allowed five runs. He was hurt last night by a third inning that included eight batters, three runs, two walks and two errors. He was finished off by Jason Varitek's game-tying double off Timlin with two outs in the seventh just two pitches after being removed.

"I've got to do something about that second and third inning. Those are the innings that are killing me every start," said Johnson, who walked six, struck out six and threw 120 pitches.

A run-scoring single by Jeff Frye in the third inning was the last of three hits off Johnson. He retired 13 of the last 15 batters, turning over the game to Timlin with a runner on second. Stripped of his closer's title, Timlin nearly allowed a two-run homer to Varitek. The ball hit high off the Green Monster, resulting in the Orioles' 19th blown save according to statistics provided by Major League Baseball. The 20th was just around the corner.

Asked about Hargrove's decision to change his role, Timlin said, "It's his bullpen. He does what he wants. Relief pitching is the same no matter whether you come in the second or seventh. You've got to get the guys out in front of you."

Orioles tonight

Opponent: Boston Red Sox

Site: Fenway Park, Boston

Time: 7:05

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

Starters: Orioles' Scott Erickson (3-5, 7.36) vs. Red Sox's Tim Wakefield (2-5, 5.46)

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