Orioles pass final road test in 9-7 victory over Red Sox

2 in 8th, 2 in 9th win it

final 11 games are at home


BOSTON - Say goodbye to charter flights and hotel living. Bid farewell to hostile environments, at least until most of New England pours into Camden Yards for the season's last four games. The Orioles are coming off the road for good, and they're leaving behind a little reminder of their competitive streak.

It ran right through the Boston Red Sox last night, just as wide as the gap that again separates them from the team they"re chasing for a division title - the New York Yankees.

Sent up to pinch-hit for Jay Gibbons in the eighth inning with two outs, the bases loaded and the score tied, Jose Leon responded with a two-run single off left-hander Mike Myers that gave the Orioles their final lead in a 9-7 victory at Fenway Park.

Leon clapped his hands re peatedly after reaching second base on the throw, the only person among 35,026 who broke into applause. The Orioles scored twice more in the ninth against Byung-Hyun Kim, but Boston strung together four straight singles in the bottom half, the last by Manny Ramirez to bring in two runs.

With B.J. Ryan finding out how hard life can be as the last reliever, David Ortiz flied to deep right field with two runners on base to end the game. The Orioles went 6-4 on their final trip, and 40-41 away from Baltimore. Eleven games remain in the season, including those last three against the Red Sox, who needed two walk-off wins just to gain a split in this series.

Miguel Tejada hit his 30th homer, a three-run shot off Red Sox starter Derek Lowe in the fifth inning that gave the Orioles a short-lived 5-2 lead. Melvin Mora had two hits and two RBIs in the first three innings, twice putting the Orioles ahead before Tejada did the same. Mora won't catch Seattle's Ichiro Suzuki in the American League batting race, but he continues to hold down second place while crafting one of the finest seasons in club history.

Has the left side of the Orioles' infield ever looked so good?

Tejada's 134 RBIs are three more than he totaled in 2002 as the AL's Most Valuable Player. He's nine away from breaking Rafael Palmeiro's club record for a single season.

Tejada sprinted to the mound after Daniel Cabrera fell behind Kevin Millar 2-0 in the fifth inning. The rookie had walked in a run and the bases still were loaded with two outs, but the conference didn't settle him down. Millar singled off the Green Monster to tie the game at 5 and bring a pitching change.

Like Matt Riley two nights earlier, Cabrera fell an out short of completing five innings, and manager Lee Mazzilli again had to shuffle his relievers.

He kept turning up the right cards, beginning with John Parrish, who struck out all four batters he faced.

Before the first pitch was thrown, the Red Sox already knew they had to win or else lose ground to the Yankees, who posted an afternoon victory over the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in a hurricane-related makeup game.

The score was etched on the Green Monster, the numbers frozen, almost taunting them. As if the Red Sox needed any more reminders that the Yankees were coming to town this weekend, and that expectations might have to be lowered to the wild card.

Palmeiro was out of the lineup for a third straight game because of a strained right hamstring, but Mazzilli is aiming for a return tonight.

It was left to Brian Roberts to achieve the latest milestone. His double in the first inning was his 48th, breaking Cal Ripken's single-season team record. Roberts already holds the record for most doubles by a switch-hitter.

Roberts began a stretch of three consecutive hits in the inning, with Mora's bloop single into center field giving the Orioles a 1-0 lead. David Newhan reached on an infield hit before Mora's at-bat, but Lowe picked him off first base.

Cabrera gave up the tying run in the second on a two-out walk to Jason Varitek, a stolen base and broken-bat single by Doug Mientkiewicz. But an unearned run in the third again put the Orioles ahead.

Roberts walked with two outs and Newhan reached on Mientkiewicz's error. Mora followed with a ground-rule double to right, the ball hopping the fence and forcing Newhan to stop at third base after Roberts scored.

In a 12-for-62 slump before last night, Newhan singled twice and had four hits in the last two games of the series. He moved Gibbons to third base with one out in the fifth inning when his pop up fell into shallow left field, and Tejada deposited an 89-mph fastball from Lowe onto Lansdowne Street.

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