O's drop 1 in game of wall ball

Mora fails to squeeze 3-run HR in 8th as Red Sox prevail, 4-2

Loss is O's fourth in a row

`Felt ball in my glove'

Erickson contains Boston for first 7 2/3

April 07, 2002|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

Orioles left fielder Melvin Mora went racing into a wall yesterday, hoping to prevent a home run, hoping to preserve another solid pitching performance and hoping to avoid another loss.

Like so much else in this young season for the Orioles, the ball landed just out of their reach.

Mora said he felt Nomar Garciaparra's home run ball in his glove, only to have the ball slip over the fence, and that lifted the Boston Red Sox to a 4-2 victory over the Orioles before 34,978 at Camden Yards.

Garciaparra hit his second home run in two games, this one a three-run shot off Scott Erickson that broke a 1-1 tie in the eighth inning and handed the Orioles their fourth consecutive defeat.

Mora made a long run on the play, and the ball appeared to hit his glove just as the glove was hitting the wall. After realizing the little white pearl was in the stands, Mora sat kneeling on the warning track in disbelief.

"I felt the ball in my glove, and I don't know what happened after that," Mora said. "Maybe [it fell out] because I hit the wall too hard with my wrist. It's a little frustrating, especially when Erickson pitched a pretty good game."

Erickson (1-1) went eight innings and later spent time lamenting his own performance in the eighth, which started with two quick outs. Erickson then had Boston's 43-year-old leadoff hitter Rickey Henderson down in the count 0-2, but the ageless Henderson lined a single to left field.

Of all the plays from the past week that might have the Orioles feeling misfortunate, the biggest one came next. With Johnny Damon batting, Henderson broke for second, Orioles second baseman Jerry Hairston went to cover, and Damon hit a perfect hit-and-run grounder right through the spot where Hairston had been standing.

Henderson advanced to third on the play. Garciaparra hit Erickson's next pitch off Mora's glove for a home run. "I was mowing them down," Erickson said. "I just basically choked."

Orioles shortstop Mike Bordick felt the same way. It's his job to decide who should cover second base on a potential steal, and before the 1-1 pitch to Damon, Bordick signaled to have Hairston cover.

With catcher Geronimo Gil calling for a sinker outside, Bordick figured the left-handed hitting Damon might try punching the ball to the opposite field. Instead, Damon pulled it through the hole.

"It kind of goes against my rule of switching coverage late in the game, but I just had a feeling," Bordick said. "[Friday] night, he hit a lot of balls to left field. He's real good at that. I took a chance, and I got beat on it."

At that point, Orioles manager Mike Hargrove had right-hander Willis Roberts and left-hander B.J. Ryan up and ready to pitch. But Hargrove stuck with Erickson, who threw 100 pitches in Monday's victory over the New York Yankees.

Garciaparra's home run came on Erickson's 114th pitch.

"I'm not going to second-guess that move," Hargrove said. "Scotty's good, and he threw the ball well."

When teams struggle offensively the way the Orioles are, the little things get magnified, especially in defeat. Since pounding the Yankees, 10-3, on Opening Day, the Orioles have just three runs and 16 hits in their past 36 innings. Today, they'll try to avoid a Red Sox sweep against Boston ace Pedro Martinez.

Yesterday's futility came against Boston's No. 5 starter, Frank Castillo, who didn't throw a pitch faster than 88 mph. Chris Singleton walked and reached third base with one out in the fourth inning, but Castillo escaped unscathed as Jeff Conine grounded to shortstop and Tony Batista struck out.

Jay Gibbons hit the first pitch he saw for a home run to lead off the third inning, and that was the Orioles' only hit as they entered the seventh with a 1-0 lead. Shea Hillenbrand tied the score with a sacrifice fly in the seventh, scoring Garciaparra, who had singled.

Bordick later added a home run off winning pitcher Casey Fossum (1-0), but that came after Garciaparra had given the Red Sox a three-run lead. Ugueth Urbina pitched the ninth for his second save.

"If you start feeling snake-bit, all you do is end up feeling sorry for yourself and making excuses," Hargrove said, contemplating Mora's near-catch and all the near-misses in the game. "That never works. You accept it as part of the game.

"You don't like it, but there's not a whole lot you can do except go out there and keep working at it."

Orioles today

Opponent: Boston Red Sox

Site: Camden Yards

Time: 1:35 p.m.

TV/Radio: CSN/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: Red Sox's Pedro Martinez (0-0, 21.00) vs. Orioles' Calvin Maduro (5-6, 4.23 in 2001)

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