Surhoff, O's keep Red Sox blue, 9-6

Veteran's grand slam paces ragged 9-6 win

Boston loses 3rd in row


BOSTON - Reluctant to embrace their role as spoilers in an other season where pennant races are run without them, the Orioles must cozy up to it once in a while.

It could be worse. They could be playing last-place teams in empty ballparks, instead of tormenting Red Sox Nation in jam- packed Fenway Park. Now that's living.

B.J. Surhoff hit a grand slam off Tim Wakefield last night, Melvin Mora atoned for two mental lapses with a bases- empty shot in the ninth, and the Orioles prevented Boston from inching closer to first place with a 9-6 victory that had its share of ragged plays and antacid moments.

The last of five relievers, Jorge Julio recorded his 22nd save with an uneventful ninth - one of the few times the game was calm.

Assured of going no worse than .500 on their last road trip of the season, a three-city jaunt with plenty of danger spots, the Orioles improved to 8-4 against Boston this season.

"Whatever it is." manager Lee Mazzilli said, "I don't want to change it."

The Orioles are 5-2 on the trip with three games remaining before their final homestand. They won last night despite an uneven performance from their starting pitcher, who was pulled one out short of qualifying for the decision with an 8-4 lead, and blunders that were more comical than critical given the outcome.

The Red Sox had one eye on the Orioles and the other on their scoreboard. They kept close watch on the New York Yankees, who were at home losing to the Toronto Blue Jays to keep their 4 1/2-game lead in the American League East.

The Yankees took two of three from the Red Sox over the weekend, outscoring them 27-8 and most likely relegating them to the wild card. Held to a .200 average and embarrassed by their mistakes, the Red Sox returned to Fenway Park in need of a lift.

What they got instead were 102 pitches out of Wakefield in 4 1/3 innings, two errors, a passed ball and a botched rundown that let Mora score in the fifth.

The Orioles (70-78) weren't putting on any clinics, but they did enough right to hand the Red Sox their third straight loss.

Matt Riley was charged with four runs (three earned) in 4 2/3 innings. The Red Sox scored twice and had runners on second and third with two outs when Mazzilli brought in right- hander Todd Williams to face Kevin Millar.

Manny Ramirez's bases- loaded double had shaved the Orioles" lead to 8-4, but Riley retired David Ortiz on a pop-up for the second out. Ortiz hit a two-run homer off Riley in the fourth, so the at-bat was especially dramatic.

Mazzilli took the ball from Riley rather than let him face Millar, who grounded out against Williams. Denied a chance to earn his first win since April 16, Riley shook his head and rubbed the back of his neck as he walked to the dugout.

"I was disappointed." Riley said. "I thought I pitched good and had good stuff, but that's the manager's decision. He just wanted a better matchup. I understand."

Wakefield was probably grateful for the chance to leave after surrendering eight runs, walking five and hitting a batter. He's given up 21 earned runs (27 total) in his past four starts.

One of his knucklers veered past catcher Doug Mirabelli in the second inning after Javy Lopez swung through it for a strikeout.

The bat flew from Lopez's hands, and he stood at home plate as Mirabelli chased the ball to the screen. Umpire Jim Reynolds pointed toward first base, and Lopez finally began to jog up the line but was retired.

Wakefield struck out the side in the third, but Lopez walked with the bases loaded in the fourth to break a scoreless tie. Surhoff followed with his grand slam, the sixth of his career, for a 5-0 lead.

The Orioles loaded the bases again in the fifth on a single and two walks, the last intentional after a double steal. Brian Roberts scored on a passed ball, setting up one of the strangest plays of the season.

Rafael Palmeiro walked with first base open, but Mora thought the bases were still loaded and began to trot home. Mirabelli raced toward him, and Mora stayed in the rundown for six throws, the last one dropped by Millar at the plate.

Miguel Tejada put both hands on his head at second base, and teammates chided Mora in the dugout.

"I don't know what I was thinking." Mora said. "Some body yelled "Go back, go back," and I thought, "Oh my God." I need to go to bed. It made me tired. It was a crazy night."

Palmeiro left the game that inning with a sore hamstring. Mora was bothered by another brain cramp in the sixth when he tagged Mueller sliding into third rather than stepping on the bag for the force. Mueller was safe, loading the bases, and Johnny Damon followed with an RBI single.

The Red Sox scored twice in the sixth, both runs charged to Williams. Mazzilli used three relievers, with Jason Grimsley getting a one-pitch out to preserve an 8-6 lead.

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