Orioles ride second wind out of Boston, 8-3

Distance put on 1-18 skid with second win in 3 days

September 16, 2002|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

BOSTON - For one day, at least, the Orioles had a flicker of hope that the bleeding has finally stopped.

Jason Johnson battled through 6 1/3 innings yesterday, and Tony Batista broke Brooks Robinson's record for home runs by an Orioles third baseman, as they defeated the Boston Red Sox, 8-3, at Fenway Park.

After going 1-18 in their previous 19 games heading into the series, taking two of three felt good for the Orioles, even if it meant transferring some of their misery over to a Red Sox team that has practically lost all hope of reaching the playoffs.

"The way we've been going for 2 1/2 years," Orioles manager Mike Hargrove said before catching himself. "Two and a half years? Two and a half weeks. That's a Freudian slip. But any time you can win two out of three ... heck, we were at two out of 20 at one time."

Losing can play tricks on the mind, and the Orioles were in danger of letting the spiral continue when Boston took a 2-0 lead in the first inning. As Hargrove said, "You can't stop the `Oh no, here we go again' thoughts from going through your mind. But our guys responded well."

The Orioles scored four runs in the third inning to take a 4-2 lead against Red Sox starter John Burkett. Jerry Hairston had a run-scoring double, Chris Richard had a two-out run-scoring single, and Batista followed with a two-run homer.

Batista became the first Oriole to hit 30 home runs since Albert Belle had 37 in 1999. Batista has 29 home runs as a third baseman and one as a designated hitter. His latest one lifted him above Robinson, who hit 28 homers as a third baseman for the Orioles in 1964.

Batista, who took Cal Ripken's place at third base this season, recognized the magnitude of his accomplishment.

"Robinson, Hall of Fame," Batista said. "Ripken, Hall of Fame. Tony Batista breaks the record."

It was an accomplishment for the Orioles just giving Johnson a lead. They had scored two runs in each of his previous four starts, all losses. This time, they added on, as Luis Lopez hit a two-run homer down the right-field line with two outs in the fourth inning.

"It's been a while," Johnson said of the last time he pitched with such a comfortable margin. "And that makes it a lot easier to pitch. You know you can just go out and throw strikes, and if you give up one or two runs, it's OK."

Johnson (5-13) allowed three runs on eight hits, walking three and striking out six. Even with a four-run lead, he didn't make it look easy.

The Red Sox brought Nomar Garciaparra to the plate with the bases loaded and two outs in the fourth. Johnson had walked two batters, and Hairston mishandled a grounder by Shea Hillenbrand for an error, setting the stage for the game's tensest moment.

Garciaparra worked Johnson to a full count, stirring the announced crowd of 31,007, but he lined out to left field to end the inning.

"This wasn't one of Jason's more spectacular outings," Hargrove said. "Jason really had to grind it out today, and to his credit, he did."

Manny Ramirez hit a run-scoring double off Johnson with one out in the seventh inning, trimming the lead to 6-3, and Hargrove went to his bullpen. B.J. Ryan struck out Cliff Floyd and got Doug Mirabelli to ground out, preventing further damage.

It looked like Orioles closer Jorge Julio might get his first save situation since Aug. 15, but the Orioles added two runs in the ninth inning. Geronimo Gil and Lopez each had run-scoring doubles.

The loss dropped Boston 9 1/2 games behind the New York Yankees in the American League East with 14 games remaining.

"As long as we have a pulse, I'm maintaining hope," Red Sox manager Grady Little said. "But after a day when you lose a game, it kind of grows thinner and thinner."

Meanwhile, back in the Orioles' clubhouse, Hairston was asked if this series will help stop this cycle of losing.

"Ask me in about a week," he said. "We've got a tough series with Toronto [starting tonight], and hopefully we'll play well."

Orioles tonight

Opponent:Toronto Blue Jays

Site:Camden Yards

Time:7:05

TV/Radio:Comcast SportsNet/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters:Blue Jays' Pete Walker (8-4, 4.73) vs. Orioles' Sidney Ponson (7-6, 4.04)

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