O's look in mirror, beat blue Sox, 5-1

Lively kids top Boston, in disarray like '98 O's

September 25, 2001|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

BOSTON - Sitting on fourth place inside the visitors' dugout, the Orioles looked across the Fenway Park diamond last night and caught a glimpse of their former selves, circa 1998.

No matter how tough times might be for the Orioles, they continue to use September as a proving ground as evidenced by last night's 5-1 win over the Boston Red Sox before a magnanimous crowd of 30,114.

Starting pitcher Calvin Maduro's six strong innings coupled with efficient relief and three hits apiece from Larry Bigbie, Tony Batista and Chris Richard drove the Orioles to their fourth win in five games.

The Red Sox, whose loss allowed the idle New York Yankees to clinch a tie for their fourth consecutive American League East title, offered a lifeless performance typical of a more experienced but less motivated club. The Orioles contrasted the look by playing with purpose.

"Each player, each team, each organization has a motivation to get them through and beyond what they're experiencing," manager Mike Hargrove said.

"Our motivation since Day One has been making this organization championship-caliber again. There's a lot of motivation in that. ... Hopefully, we're a better ballclub at the end of the season than at the beginning. Record notwithstanding, I think we are."

Like the 1998 Orioles, games have become mere filler to these Red Sox. Yesterday's flavor had manager Joe Kerrigan lecturing local media on their role in intrigue now engulfing the franchise.

Kerrigan, a media-friendly figure before his promotion, longed for days long past.

"There used to be an old, forbidden code of conduct that everybody used to abide by ... the writers, the players. They used to have a saying up on the wall: What you hear here, what you say here, stays here. But that's obviously no longer the case," Kerrigan said.

The Red Sox have followed a playbook familiar to fans of the black and orange. A highly successful manager is ousted during a season when some would consider him his league's Manager of the Year. A successful pitching coach replaces him and quickly becomes engulfed in the complex neuroses of a mutinous veteran clubhouse.

A breakdown in discipline soon follows with management convinced external forces are to blame for the team's destruction.

Indignant at Kerrigan's suggestion that stories had leaked because of "eavesdropping" media, the Boston press boycotted the Red Sox clubhouse after the game.

No, these aren't the 1998 Orioles but are indeed a reasonable facsimile.

The Orioles catch the Sox without star center fielder Carl Everett, sent packing to Florida last week with a supposed knee injury after alleging Kerrigan slurred him with a racial epithet.

They also caught starting pitcher David Cone, who had lost his previous four starts.

Cone, 38, contained the Orioles on one run on six hits by wriggling from several jams in his five innings.

Maduro (4-6) won only the second road decision of his major-league career. He cited the defensive play of third baseman Cal Ripken as pivotal. Ripken began two double plays and made a diving stop against Lou Merloni in the fifth inning to prevent a rally.

"I felt like those were game-saving plays," Maduro said.

The Red Sox began last night in a 4-16 free fall and are 10-20 under Kerrigan. They were 65-53 contenders for the wild card before predecessor Jimy Williams' Aug. 16 firing. Hoping to avoid 100 losses, the Orioles entered 4-17 since Aug. 23 but having kept a lid on their frustrations. Sunday night against the Yankees, they found themselves three outs from their first three-game sweep of the season before buckling. By yesterday afternoon, even given complicated travel that prevented them from reaching their hotel until 7 a.m., the residue had rinsed away.

Overmatched for much of the past month, these Orioles have maintained their dignity through what has been a trying baptism.

"It's a great opportunity to come up, play and be part of Cal's retirement. That's part of this, too," said Bigbie, who enjoyed the first three-hit game of his young career. "He's had such a great career. We're not going to give up now. We'd like to finish strong."

As the Fenway faithful sang "America the Beautiful" during last night's seventh-inning stretch, the Orioles emerged from their dugout to stand shoulder-to-shoulder. Those in the field stood at attention facing the center-field flag. The Red Sox who hadn't trudged to the home clubhouse briefly milled about the dugout before noting the moment.

Able to tie the score on Trot Nixon's fourth-inning home run, the Red Sox were undone by knuckleballer Tim Wakefield's troubled sixth and seventh innings.

Batista played a central role in the sixth inning, walking and stealing his way into scoring position before scoring on Brady Anderson's one-out single. The Orioles bumped their lead to 4-1 in the seventh on Richard's RBI single and Ripken's fielder's choice.

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