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

O's defense too generous in 7-run second inning as Boston cruises to win

Ainsworth's 1st start is only 1 2/3

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 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, Ainsworth took the mound with high hopes but sunk to a new low, as Mazzilli pulled him after just five outs. In 1 2/3 innings, Ainsworth was charged with seven earned runs, 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."

Toting a fastball that reached 94 mph on the stadium radar gun, Ainsworth looked resilient enough in the first inning. Damon led off the game with a double down the third base line, but Ainsworth stranded him on second, retiring Bill Mueller, David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez.

But Ainsworth played with fire again in the second inning, and the situation turned into a towering inferno.

Kevin Millar hit another lead-off double and then Ainsworth walked Jason Varitek - the first of three costly walks in the inning. Once again, Ainsworth looked like he was on his way to escaping when he got Gabe Kapler to ground to third baseman Melvin Mora, who fielded an easy hop, stepped on third and fired to first for the easy double play.

But then Ainsworth walked Mark Bellhorn, which put runners at first and second before 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 Mora at third. 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.

Tejada 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.

"You give a good team four outs, they"re going to hurt you." Mazzilli said.

Damon was the one imposing the most pain. He followed Reese with a single to left field, scoring Varitek and Bellhorn.

Orioles left fielder Larry Bigbie made a strong throw home, in time to get Bellhorn, but the ball short-hopped, and catcher Javy Lopez couldn't hang on for the out.

Lopez tossed the ball to Ainsworth, disappointedly.

"Javy didn't drop the ball." Mazzilli said. "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 Mueller, the reigning American League batting champ, who fouled off one two-strike offering from Ainsworth and then drilled a hanging curveball to center for a two-run single.

Just like that, Boston led 4-0.

Ainsworth followed that with a five-pitch walk to Ortiz, and by then, his shoulders were slumping in frustration.

"He wasn't himself." Mazzilli said.

Yet, somehow, things got even worse.

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.

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 Millar - who had started the inning with a double -lined a single to center, scoring Ramirez for a 7-0 lead.

For the Ravens, this might not have been a problem. For the Orioles, on a night they were facing Lowe, it was an almost insurmountable problem.

The Orioles loaded the bases in the second inning, but Lowe got Bigbie to ground to first, ending that threat. Rafael Palmeiro finally gave the Orioles a run when he singled home Mora in the third inning.

Lowe allowed two runs on seven hits over six innings.

Bigbie homered off Red Sox reliever Bobby Jones in the seventh.

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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