Red Sox dash O's .500 hopes

Big close turns nailbiter to 8-3 rout

Orioles are 77-82 with 3 games left

October 02, 2004|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,SUN STAFF

After striking out for the second time against Boston Red Sox starter Tim Wakefield, Orioles shortstop Miguel Tejada threw up his hands in disgust.

First baseman Rafael Palmeiro reacted to an inning-ending strikeout by slapping and then spiking his bat a few feet from home plate.

For four innings, the Orioles flailed unsuccessfully at Wakefield's knuckleball as the team's quest to finish the season with a .500 record slowly was slipping from its grasp.

Rodrigo Lopez was nearly as impressive for the Orioles, but by the end of the Red Sox's 8-3 victory last night in front of 39,086 at Camden Yards, Lopez's frustration level would rise as well and the Orioles would be assured of their seventh straight losing season.

"It was a hell of a run," said Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli, whose team is 77-82 after a 7-2 closing spurt and has only three games remaining, including today's doubleheader. "We just came up a little short. I'm proud of these guys."

Removed in the seventh inning with men on first and third and one out and the Orioles leading 2-1, Lopez watched Boston catcher Doug Mirabelli drive in Orlando Cabrera for the tying run with a single off reliever Jason Grimsley and Mark Bellhorn knock in the winning run on a bases-loaded single - also off Grimsley.

"The whole time I was confident," said Lopez, who gave up five hits and three earned runs in 6 1/3 innings, but still suffered his first loss since Aug. 17. "I don't know [if coming out] was the right thing. I thought I had the game under control. I had good stuff but everything just turned around."

Lopez was particularly frustrated that, in the decisive inning, he had Cabrera picked off at first but the Red Sox's hand hit first baseman Rafael Palmeiro's glove and jarred the ball loose. First base umpire Paul Nauert signaled that Cabrera was out, but changed his call when he saw the ball pop out.

Cabrera then came around to score the tying run when Mirabelli singled through the drawn-in infield.

"[Lopez] deserved a better fate," Mazzilli said. "Grimsley is a ground-ball pitcher and he got the ground ball. Unfortunately, [Mirabelli's single] was out of reach."

Former Oriole Mike Timlin got out of a minor jam in the eighth by getting pinch hitter Javy Lopez on a flyout to center with men on first and second.

The Red Sox tacked on five more in the top of the ninth, highlighted by David Ortiz's three-run home run off John Parrish, which traveled 415 feet into the center-field bleachers. Orioles reliever Jorge Julio absorbed four of the runs.

Wakefield was the beneficiary as he pitched six innings, giving up six hits and two runs to improve to 12-10.

Lopez had been 3-0 with a 1.13 ERA in three starts and six appearances against the Red Sox this season. He was so dominant in his last start that the Red Sox asked the umpires in the eighth inning to check his hat for any illegal substances.

None were found, but if the Red Sox's goal was to disrupt Lopez's concentration - as most Orioles believe it was - it worked because he walked the next two hitters.

Last night, Boston jumped out to a 1-0 lead when its leadoff man, Johnny Damon, who entered the game just 6-for-30 against the Orioles starter, launched Lopez's 3-2 fastball over the right-center-field fence in the third inning.

Damon's 20th home run was cheered loudly as Red Sox Nation continued to invade Camden Yards as if it were its own.

Chants of "Let's go Red Sox" went on throughout the game, but they were interrupted in the fifth inning. Jay Gibbons started it with a single and he came around to score on a single by Brian Roberts.

Catcher Geronimo Gil, who threw out Mark Bellhorn trying to steal second in the top half of the inning, singled home Tejada to give the Orioles a 2-1 advantage in the bottom of the sixth, but an inning later, the Orioles lost their lead and their chance at finishing .500.

"It would have been nice," said Bigbie. "But we are still happy with the way we've played since the second half. It was a big turnaround just to get to this point."

NOTES: Red Sox manager Terry Francona announced after the game that Derek Lowe will begin the playoffs in the bullpen as Bronson Arroyo and Wakefield will pitch in Games 3 and 4. ... Javy Lopez didn't start because of a sore ankle after fouling a ball off it Thursday. Lopez, who makes no secret of the fact that he is uncomfortable as a designated hitter, said before the game that he expects to play some first base next year. "They've given me an idea about it," he said. "I am going to prepare myself so I know what I am doing." ... Triple-A manager Tim Leiper, roving infield/base-running instructor Matt Martin and Aberdeen pithing coach Andre Rabouin will not be offered contracts for next season. ... Val Majewski (Bowie) and Hayden Penn (Delmarva, Frederick and Bowie) were honored before last night's game as the Minor League Player and Pitcher of the Year, respectively.

Orioles today

Opponent: Boston Red Sox in doubleheader

Site: Camden Yards

Time: 1:25 p.m., 7:05 p.m.

TV/Radio: Ch. 45 (Game 1), Ch. 54 (Game 2)/WBAL (1090 AM)

Game 1 starters: Red Sox's Bronson Arroyo (10-9, 4.10) vs. Orioles' Daniel Cabrera (12-7, 4.67)

Game 2 starters: Red Sox's Pedro Astacio (0-0, 11.57) vs. Orioles' Sidney Ponson (11-15, 5.28)

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