Red Sox get last 2-out laugh, 3-2

O's foil Foulke for 2 in 9th, but Ryan, Julio blow lead

September 22, 2004|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

BOSTON - One swing and the Orioles were certain they had a win last night. One pitching change, and a game turned at breakneck speed.

Two teams were dizzy, a reliever simmered, and a manager defended a late decision that gave the Boston Red Sox a 3-2 win over the Orioles before a sellout crowd at Fenway Park.

Mark Bellhorn lined a two-out, two-run single off Jorge Julio in the ninth inning, ending the Red Sox's losing streak at three games and keeping them 4 1/2 behind the New York Yankees.

"It's not the time of year to lose four in a row," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said.

It almost happened. Catcher Javy Lopez's two-run homer in the ninth off Keith Foulke, also with two outs, moved the Orioles ahead 2-1. But Boston broke out one last rally.

Pinch hitter Kevin Youkilis walked and Bill Mueller doubled off B.J. Ryan, but the left-hander almost escaped the jam by retiring the next two batters.

That's when manager Lee Mazzilli brought in Julio, much to the surprise of Ryan, who appeared furious on the mound. Julio fell behind 2-0 to Bellhorn, a switch-hitter, and threw a strike before his next fastball landed in right-center field.

It was Julio's fourth blown save this season, the first against a team other than Tampa Bay. It also drew more attention away from a duel between starters Rodrigo Lopez and Curt Schilling, who took shutouts into the eighth.

"We had the right guys in the right spots against the right hitters," Mazzilli said. "The matchup was good."

Bellhorn was hitting .305 against lefties and .236 against right-handers. If Julio walked him, he would have faced Manny Ramirez with the bases loaded.

"We're going to live and die with our best out there," Mazzilli said, "and that's what we did."

Ryan (3-6) clearly wanted to finish the game. He sat in the trainer's room in his street clothes and left the clubhouse without speaking to reporters.

"I hope they're all reluctant to give up the ball because that tells me they want to stay in the game and pitch," Mazzilli said. "That's a good sign."

A better one seemed to come from Javy Lopez, who worked the count full before homering for just the second time since Aug. 20. He drove a changeup onto Lansdowne Street after Miguel Tejada singled with one out and moved up on a grounder.

Rodrigo Lopez was spared the loss after walking the first two batters in the eighth and watching from the dugout as Kevin Millar's sacrifice fly off Ryan with the bases loaded gave the Red Sox a 1-0 lead.

"We battled to the end," Rodrigo Lopez said. "I don't think anybody's frustrated or disappointed."

Said Mazzilli: "It's just a shame you've got to lose like that the way Rodrigo pitched."

Schilling was even better, striking out 14 and holding the Orioles to three hits before turning over the game to Foulke, who had converted his previous 16 save opportunities.

"Schilling is Schilling," Mazzilli said. "He had his splitter going tonight and got ahead. He's a guy who, when you've got a chance to score a couple runs, you've got to take advantage of it."

The former Oriole didn't figure to have an easy time, not with Lopez being 3-0 with a 1.06 ERA against the Red Sox before last night, and 8-2 with a 3.93 ERA in 14 career appearances.

Matt Riley was gone after 4 2/3 innings in the series opener, dragged to the bench by Mazzilli's quick hook. Lopez was going to stick around a lot longer.

The two walks in the eighth came after the Red Sox instructed plate umpire Andy Fletcher to check Lopez's cap for pine tar. Lopez had never been subjected to such treatment.

"I've been pitching a long time. I don't cheat," he said. "I don't need to bring anything to the mound."

Lopez, who allowed five hits and struck out seven, didn't blame the delay for his sudden loss of control. "I got a little tired," he said, "and I couldn't get the ball down."

Knowing one run might be enough to win, Francona had Pokey Reese lay down a bunt after Bill Mueller reached on an infield hit to begin the fifth. David Newhan tried to do the same in the sixth after Brian Roberts singled. Neither team scored. Neither team came close.

Larry Bigbie singled and stole second in the eighth, but the next three batters struck out.

Schilling hasn't lost since Aug. 9. If only the Orioles could say the same about Julio.

"I don't feel good right now," he said. "Everybody played hard. Nobody's happy."

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