Tejada's indecision costs O's

Shortstop's hesitation leads to seven-run inning

April 08, 2004|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

Orioles shortstop Miguel Tejada had no problem getting to Pokey Reese's ground ball last night. He just wasn't sure what to do with it.

Should he throw to third base for the force out, which would have ended the second inning without any runs scoring? Or should he make the longer toss to first and take his chances?

That split-second of indecision loaded the bases and led to a seven-run inning for the Boston Red Sox, who cruised to a 10-3 victory over the Orioles at Camden Yards.

Tejada ranged into the hole to make the play, and with his momentum carrying him toward third, he cocked his arm before realizing that Melvin Mora wasn't on the bag. He fired to first without planting his feet, and Reese beat the throw.

From there, the game spun out of control for the Orioles.

Johnny Damon and Bill Mueller followed with two-run singles, and Manny Ramirez delivered two more with a gift double that center fielder Luis Matos lost in the lights. Kevin Millar, the last batter to face Kurt Ainsworth, singled for a 7-0 lead.

Ainsworth deserved better - or at least an explanation.

How did a simple ground ball cause so much confusion? And who should accept responsibility for the blunder?

"It's a play where your initial reaction is to go that way [third]," Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli said. "You don't have a chance to really set up when you have a guy like Reese running."

Mora took a step toward the ball, then backpedaled to third rather than sprint to get there ahead of Jason Varitek. Tejada had a sure out at first, considering that he almost nailed Reese, but not if he hesitated.

"It's not Melvin, it's me," Tejada said. "I should have thrown that ball to first."

The day started horribly for Mora, who required treatment for a sore neck after a fence at a construction site blew onto his car's roof as he left a team luncheon in Baltimore.

At least he didn't commit an error, his total holding at three on the season, but he still drew unwanted attention.

Just once, Mora would like to get through nine innings at his new position without being noticed.

Is there a witness protection program for third basemen?

"I reacted to the ball but it was hit slowly," Mora said. "If he threw to me, it was going to be difficult to get the out because I'd have to make the tag while running."

Said Mazzilli: "You can see that play happen 100 times during the season, where the guy flips to third base and the inning is over. It didn't work that way."

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