O's fumble, Red Sox grab 10-3 victory

Orioles defense generous in 7-run second inning as Boston cruises to win

Ainsworth knocked out in 2nd

Damon goes 5-for-5, Lowe controls O's bats in second straight loss

April 08, 2004|By Joe Christensen | Joe Christensen,SUN STAFF

Mazzilli Ball turned into Silly Ball last night at Camden Yards.

This theory that the Orioles' young pitchers will have an easier transition this season because of the improvements they've made - both offensively and defensively - went bad in a hurry.

New manager Lee Mazzilli could only wince as he watched Kurt Ainsworth crumble in the second inning, when the Orioles handed the powerful Boston Red Sox lineup the equivalent of six outs.

Boston capitalized on three misplays to score seven runs in the second, and a restless crowd of 28,373 watched the Red Sox cruise to a 10-3 victory.

"An ugly game," Mazzilli said, "is what it was."

Red Sox center fielder Johnny Damon went 5-for-5 and robbed Orioles designated hitter David Segui of a three-run homer, as Boston won its second straight.

The Orioles will send rookie Matt Riley to the mound tonight, hoping to gain a split in the four-game series that started so promisingly Sunday, when Mazzilli won his big league managing debut, 7-2.

After a promising spring in which he posted a 2.20 ERA in four starts, Ainsworth stumbled on a night that was supposed to represent a new beginning.

Acquired last year in the July 31 trade that sent Sidney Ponson to the San Francisco Giants, Ainsworth came with a broken right shoulder blade and was limited to three relief appearances.

With his arm back at full strength last night, Ainsworth took the mound with high hopes but sank to a new low, as Mazzilli pulled him after just five outs. And since none of the misplays counted as official errors, Ainsworth was charged with seven earned runs in 1 2/3 innings, leaving his ERA at 37.80.

"Obviously, it's disappointing," Ainsworth said. "The one thing I have to take out of this, and the one thing I have to realize is it's only one game. It's just a lesson. I didn't give our team a chance to win, and that's what makes it disappointing."

After getting a double-play grounder from Gabe Kapler for the first two outs of the second inning, Ainsworth walked Mark Bellhorn, putting runners at first and second for the game's pivotal play.

Pokey Reese, the Red Sox's No. 9 hitter, hit a grounder in the hole between shortstop Miguel Tejada and third baseman Melvin Mora. In time the Orioles hope that side of the infield becomes a real strength, but through three games, it's had its troubles.

Tejada fielded the ball, and with his momentum carrying him toward third, he clutched his arm for the throw but stopped when he realized Mora wasn't at the base.

So Tejada quickly set himself and fired across the diamond toward first, but Reese beat the throw by a step. Had Tejada gone to first, without hesitating, Reese would have been out.

"When you have a guy like Reese running," Mazzilli said, "you really don't have time to wait."

Instead of being out of the inning, with the game still scoreless, Ainsworth was back in a bind. Damon made it hurt immediately, as he lined a single to left field, scoring Jason Varitek and Bellhorn.

Orioles left fielder Larry Bigbie made a strong throw home, in time to get Bellhorn, but the ball took a short-hop, and catcher Javy Lopez couldn't hang on for the out. While the Red Sox celebrated, Lopez tossed the ball to Ainsworth, disappointedly.

"Javy didn't drop the ball," Mazzilli said. "It was a short-hop, it was a tough throw to catch."

Once again, Ainsworth could have been out of the inning, down by one run. Instead, he had to face Bill Mueller, the reigning American League batting champ, who drilled a hanging curveball to center for a two-run single.

Just like that, Boston led 4-0.

"[Ainsworth] wasn't himself," Mazzilli said. "Things like that happen, and I talk about it all the time, you've just got to step back and regroup. There's nothing you can do about it."

Somehow, things got even worse. After a walk by David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez hit a towering fly ball, and Orioles center fielder Luis Matos looked like he was camping under it for the third out. He kept camping and camping, until finally, it was clear he couldn't see it.

"I just lost it in the twilight," Matos said.

At the last instant, in a fleet of desperation, Matos tried sprinting after the ball, but by that time it was bouncing off the rubber warning track, off the wall, and straight back into the air.

Meanwhile, Mueller and Ortiz were circling the bases to make it 6-0. Mazzilli let Ainsworth face one more batter, and Kevin Millar - who had started the inning with a double - lined a single to center, scoring Ramirez for a 7-0 lead.

The Orioles got run-scoring singles from Rafael Palmeiro and Jay Gibbons against Derek Lowe, and a bases-empty homer from Bigbie off Red Sox reliever Bobby Jones, but by then, the lead was practically insurmountable.

Orioles tonight

Opponent: Boston Red Sox

Site: Camden Yards

Time: 7:05

TV/Radio: Ch. 54/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: Red Sox's Tim Wakefield (11-7, 4.09 in 2003) vs. Orioles' Matt Riley (1-0, 1.80)

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