Victory is O's parting gift, 4-2

Douglass, relievers pitch in to beat Sox in Ripken Fenway finale

September 28, 2001|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

BOSTON - The number 8 was stamped on third base again, a reminder that the Orioles' Cal Ripken would be playing there for the last time. Another city had been remembered fondly, then crossed off his list. Another lump had been cleared from his throat.

Some of the imprints on the Fenway Park mound last night were left by a rookie pitcher who didn't want Ripken to vacate the premises with a loss stacked among his gifts. A night so heavily scripted still left a little room for improvising.

Making only his third major-league start, Sean Douglass retired nine straight batters to begin the game and departed with a lead, and Ripken scored the go-ahead run to point the Orioles toward a 4-2 victory over the Boston Red Sox before 32,719.

Working his first inning in relief, knuckleballer Tim Wakefield allowed four runs in the sixth to take the loss. He walked Larry Bigbie with one out and gave up a run-scoring double to Jeff Conine that reduced Boston's lead to 2-1. Wakefield hit Ripken with two outs, and Tony Batista reached the top of the Green Monster with a double that moved the Orioles in front.

Brady Anderson tacked on another run with his third hit, lifting his average above .200 for the first time since July 22. The bullpen got Douglass out of a jam in the sixth, making possible his second victory in three decisions.

"One of my goals after I heard that Cal was retiring for sure was to try to get here even more and be a part of it and actually see it," Douglass said.

The game couldn't begin until the last notes of Bob Seger's "Like A Rock" were played over the public-address system, concluding another emotional tribute to Ripken. By then, he already had left the field, parts of a handwritten speech folded in his back pocket.

General manager Dan Duquette, the target of harsh criticism after firing manager Jimy Williams last month with the club two games back in the American League wild-card race, received a chorus of boos when introduced, and again while speaking to the crowd. One fan yelled "Shut up!" his voice carrying to Foxboro.

The place erupted in cheers when Ripken jogged to home plate for the ceremony. The Red Sox, who always remain in the dugout during the playing of "God Bless America," stood outside of it and applauded him.

Duquette presented a $20,000 donation to the Cal Ripken Jr. Division of Babe Ruth Baseball. Hall of Fame catcher Carlton Fisk gave Ripken a box seat from Fenway Park, which Ripken immediately put to use by sitting in it with his legs crossed. And former Red Sox and Orioles right fielder Dwight Evans passed along an oil painting of the historic ballpark.

"I've got to tell you, as the end is getting closer, this is getting a little tougher," Ripken said, which prompted a fan to reply, "Don't leave!" Someone else yelled, "Be our general manager!"

For another day, Ripken was the Orioles' third baseman and No. 5 hitter. Hoping to put one last "dimple" on the Green Monster, he went 0-for-2 with a walk. The crowd booed plate umpire Brian O'Nora almost as loudly as Duquette after a called third strike, and right fielder Darren Lewis after catching Ripken's line drive in his final at-bat.

The mood improved when Jose Offerman crushed a 2-0 pitch from Douglass leading off the fourth, the ball traveling an estimated 405 feet before landing in the right-field seats to break a scoreless tie.

The Red Sox scored another run that inning on Brian Daubach's single, but Douglass qualified for the win after the Orioles rallied. And after relievers B.J. Ryan and Jorge Julio stranded two runners in the sixth as part of the bullpen's 3 2/3 scoreless innings. Willis Roberts registered the club's first save since Aug. 23.

Douglass didn't have to face Manny Ramirez, who ranks among the American League's leaders with 41 homers and 125 RBIs. The Red Sox said Ramirez had an "excused absence" when he left the stadium after not seeing his name in the lineup. Another day, another chaotic episode.

Asked why Ramirez was supposed to begin the game on the bench, Joe Kerrigan said, "Manager's decision." That's when Ramirez made his own decision and vacated the clubhouse. The Red Sox expect him to join the team in Detroit today.

Derek Lowe joined their rotation last Saturday after beginning the year as Boston's closer. Making only his second start since June 28, 1998, he blanked the Orioles on two hits over five innings before Kerrigan brought in Wakefield. Lowe hasn't allowed a run in 10 innings as a starter.

His presence was virtually ignored because of Ripken, who signed autographs for about 45 minutes after the game. He missed two months last season after his back seized up while running out a ground ball in this same stadium. Last night, he walked away on his own terms.

"It's a little sad that I won't get the chance to play here anymore," he said. "I would have liked to get a hit for the last time here, but just the battle and the journey and the support I received while I was here for the four days is a huge memory for me."

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