Oliver shuts April door on Orioles, 4-0

Red Sox victory leaves Orioles 12-14, same as first month last season

Hargrove, Crowley encouraged

Maduro allows 2 until 8th

Fenway shutout is first by lefty since Viola in '93

May 01, 2002|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

BOSTON - April ended for the Orioles last night with a theme that tortured them early in the month, a sluggish offense spoiling a solid pitching performance in another loss.

Boston Red Sox left-hander Darren Oliver scattered eight hits in his first complete-game shutout since August 1999, as the Red Sox blanked the Orioles, 4-0, at Fenway Park.

The loss broke the Orioles' four-game winning streak and spoiled their chance at reaching .500 for the first time since April 3. They settled for a 12-14 April, which is the same mark they posted over the first month a year ago.

But beyond their immediate disappointment from their fourth shutout loss of the season, the Orioles still felt pretty good about their first month, especially considering their 1-6 start.

Manager Mike Hargrove said he would have accepted this record coming out of spring training.

"Looking at the schedule, I probably would have taken that," Hargrove said. "I certainly would have liked to have gotten here in a different way than we got here.

"But I think realistically - playing Boston three times, the Yankees twice and the White Sox once - baseball experts would not expect us to be where we're at."

The Orioles are 6-12 against Boston, New York and Chicago.

Against Tampa Bay and Kansas City, they are 6-2.

For most of the month, the Orioles had the worst batting average in the American League, but they entered last night ahead of Kansas City and Tampa Bay, at .242.

Of course, that didn't help them score against Oliver (3-1).

"Things are getting better," Orioles hitting coach Terry Crowley said. "I can sense guys getting a little more comfortable in the batter's box and being a little more selective than when the season started. There are some good signs, but it's hard to find too much good when you get shut out."

Boston jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning, and Orioles starter Calvin Maduro (1-3) kept the score right there into the eighth inning.

But Rey Sanchez led off the eighth with his first home run since April 12, 2000, a span of 1,094 at-bats. The last one was a three-run walk-off homer off then-Orioles reliever Mike Trombley.

Sanchez did what the Orioles couldn't do all night - deliver a meaningful hit.

The Orioles scored four runs in 4 2/3 innings against Oliver in a 5-3 victory on April 24. This time, they had at least one hit against him in each of the first seven innings.

But here was the killer: With runners on base, they were 1-for-8 and grounded into two double plays, Brook Fordyce in the fifth inning, and Tony Batista in the seventh. The Orioles put the leadoff batter on base four times. Not once did he reach third.

"We got eight hits and just couldn't get anything going," Hargrove said. "I think you've got to give credit to their defense and the guy that was on the mound. It wasn't that we were swinging at bad pitches or over-swinging or trying to do too much.

"The guy just pitched a good ballgame."

Oliver, acquired from Texas for Carl Everett in the off-season, didn't walk a batter and wound up with the first complete-game shutout by a Red Sox left-hander since Frank Viola beat the Chicago White Sox, 4-0, on April 18, 1993.

Left-handers traditionally fare worse at Fenway because of the short distance for right-handed hitters over the Green Monster in left field. This night was different.

Jay Gibbons, a left-handed hitter who went 3-for-3 for the Orioles, hit one ball off the Monster and wound up getting thrown out at second, trying to stretch it into a double. Equally frustrating for the Orioles, Jeff Conine (second inning) and Melvin Mora (eighth inning) lost possible doubles on long flyouts to deep right field.

"I don't have any answers for that one," Oliver said of succeeding amidst Fenway's quirky dimensions. "It seemed like it kind of helped me today. Sometimes the ball just bounces your way."

And sometimes it doesn't. Maduro gave up four runs, but only three of them were earned, Mora opened the game with a throwing error at shortstop. A Nomar Garciaparra double and a Manny Ramirez single made it 2-0.

"If I hit my spots on those two pitches, it probably would have been 0-0 in the eighth," Maduro said. "But good major-league hitters don't miss bad pitches like that."

All three of Maduro's losses have come against the Red Sox. The Orioles have scored a total of one run in those three games.

"Even though we got shut out today, our heads are not down," Maduro said, sounding like he was convincing himself. "We know we've got a real good team."

Orioles tonight

Opponent:Boston Red Sox

Site:Fenway Park, Boston

Time:6:05

TV/Radio:CSN/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: Orioles' Sean Douglass (0-0, 7.36) vs. Red Sox's Pedro Martinez (3-0, 3.37)

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