O's drop 1, but Bordick holds record

Shortstop is errorless for 102nd straight game to break Ordonez's mark

Lowe, Red Sox beat Hentgen, 4-2

`Going out on the top step one of greatest feelings'

September 21, 2002|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

The night ended without a tearful speech or a chauffeured ride in a convertible. It ended without balloons and confetti, without numbers draped on the warehouse and former Orioles coming out of the woodwork.

Shortstop Mike Bordick, uncomfortable and misplaced as the center of attention, became part of baseball history in the same workmanlike manner that has defined his career. And he proved a nice distraction during another Orioles loss.

Bordick set the all-time record for consecutive errorless games at his position last night, handling the pressure attached to No. 102 as cleanly as any ground ball in the Boston Red Sox's 4-2 victory over the Orioles before 32,648.

Flawless in four chances, the last coming in the ninth inning as a piece of shattered bat spun toward him, Bordick broke the record set by the New York Mets' Rey Ordonez in 1999 and 2000. It became official after Jerry Hairston caught Rey Sanchez's pop-up for the last out. The crowd rose as Bordick jogged off the field, and insisted that he step out of the dugout after teammates congratulated him.

On the other side, Boston players stood and applauded. Shortstop Nomar Garciaparra tipped his cap, a small gesture that provided a special moment for Bordick, who was replaced by a pinch hitter.

Upon entering the clubhouse, Bordick was greeted by a long ovation and a champagne toast. His father, who made the trip from Maine, waited to hug him.

"I didn't think you could top going to the top step at Camden Yards, but having your teammates do this is something special," Bordick said. "When you have both Baltimore fans mixed in with a few Red Sox fans, and going out on the top step, that was a very emotional time, one of the greatest feelings I've had."

The record was a forbidden subject among players who didn't want to jinx him. It made him admittedly nervous before the game, creeping into his consciousness and drying his mouth.

"I had a little problem getting some spit out there," he said, "but once the game started, and playing against the Red Sox, the focus certainly goes to trying to beat them. The last few innings, I thought about it a little more."

Bordick broke Cal Ripken's American League record with his 96th straight errorless game on Sept. 13 at Boston. A month earlier, he surpassed Ripken for most consecutive errorless chances by a shortstop.

What's next, 2,632?

With one error this season, on April 10, Bordick continues to lead all shortstops with a .998 fielding percentage. It's the only way to separate himself from the perennial All-Stars who leave him mostly ignored by crowds outside of Baltimore.

Only in this league could Bordick still be considered a long shot to win the Gold Glove despite a near-perfect season in the field.

"He's great," said Garciaparra, whose two-run double off Pat Hentgen (0-3) broke a 1-1 tie in the fifth. "He may not get the fanfare or whatever, but he definitely gets the respect and appreciation from all of his peers. To get that respect is ultimately what it's all about."

It also comes from a player who was a teammate of Ordonez's in New York when the record grew to 101 games. A player who could have predicted, after studying Bordick's approach to infield drills, that Ordonez would relinquish it.

"It doesn't surprise me because he's a guy who prepares himself for every ground ball," said infielder Luis Lopez, who hit for Bordick in the ninth. "And his confidence is so good. I go out there when he's taking grounders and I just watch him. You can learn so much from watching him. It wouldn't surprise me if he goes 300 more games without an error."

Ordonez brings more style and flash to the position, but all that's required for the record is consistency.

"He's so steady," Lopez said. "He's in the right spot every time, which is the way you're supposed to play. They're a little different, but the main thing is catching the ball, and there's not too much difference. They both catch the ball."

Bordick secured it on two hops in the first inning and threw to Hairston to get the force at second base. He didn't receive another chance until Trot Nixon popped to shallow left field in the fifth. Bordick ended the seventh by catching Shea Hillenbrand's line drive, and started the ninth by grabbing Jason Varitek's bouncer as wood sprayed the infield.

"That was the toughest chance he's had in the last four or five games," said manager Mike Hargrove. "The ball's camouflaged by splinters flying at him, it kicks straight to his right, but he handled it like a pro. When I saw the ball kick to his right, I felt like my stomach was going to be upset."

"The ball had some kind of spin on it," Bordick said. "Then I almost tripped over myself and kind of made the play a little bit interesting."

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