O's pick off Red Sox, 3-1

Nixon caught napping at 2nd by Fasano, Tejada in `play of the game' in 5th

Rain shortens game to 6 innings

Marrero, Mora hit homers, Sosa ends RBI drought to give O's 3rd win in 14

July 08, 2005|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

Unsure whether a young starting pitcher could navigate through a bases-loaded jam without crashing last night, Orioles shortstop Miguel Tejada provided a little insurance. He flashed a sign to catcher Sal Fasano, who read it clearly through the raindrops. All they needed to do was execute.

Exploding out of his crouch, Fasano fired the ball to Tejada, who moved behind Trot Nixon and applied the tag at second base to end the fifth inning. The pickoff allowed Daniel Cabrera to keep his one-run lead. It would become, most everyone agreed, the biggest play of the game.

It also served as a rare break for a team so desperately in need of one.

Eli Marrero and Melvin Mora homered in the third inning to move the Orioles ahead, and Tejada and Fasano made sure they stayed there in a rain-shortened, 3-1 victory over the Boston Red Sox before a sellout crowd of 47,389 at Camden Yards.

Play was halted after the sixth inning as field conditions became worse. After a one-hour delay, the Orioles' third win in 14 games was official.

Marrero reached the left-field seats against David Wells to erase a 1-0 deficit, and Mora took an 89-mph fastball to right for his 15th homer. Sammy Sosa provided another run in the sixth with a two-out single, his first RBI since June 19, and the Orioles (45-39) crept to within three games of the Red Sox in the American League East.

It might not have been possible without the pickoff, not with the weather influencing the outcome just as much as the players.

"That's the game right there," manager Lee Mazzilli said.

Cabrera (7-7) held the Red Sox to one run over five innings, but his pitch count stood at 106 when Mazzilli signaled to the bullpen with fingers crossed. Left-hander Tim Byrdak tossed a scoreless sixth to earn his first save since 1999.

The Red Sox loaded the bases with two out in the fifth, and Cabrera fell behind John Olerud, 2-0. He didn't throw another pitch.

Tejada sneaked behind Nixon and made the tag, leaving Nixon sprawled in the dirt.

"I was probably cheating a little too much, and I helped out Cabrera," Nixon said. "I just got too far off the bag. Stupidity. I was just trying to get that extra lead, that extra little jump. That's probably what lost the game for us.

"I can't say I was really shocked that they were going to throw down in that situation. Cabrera was struggling a little bit. There's not much I can say. It was my fault."

Tejada said he had one thought on his mind before flashing the sign to Fasano. "I'm thinking, `What can I do to help [Cabrera] out?'"

Fasano called for a fastball, trying to get a strike on Olerud rather than increase his chances of getting Nixon. The pitch was up, a good location for making a throw to second.

"Miggy just happened to get my attention," Fasano said. "[Tejada] broke for the bag and luckily I was set up away, so Trot was trying to extend his lead. Next thing you know, we got him. It was pretty neat."

Said Cabrera: "That's the right play at the right time. That's the play of the game."

Fasano was charged with a passed ball earlier in the game, but his execution in the fifth more than made up for it.

"He has experience, he's been around, he knows his surroundings," Mazzilli said. "And he brings that to the table."

The Red Sox broke out a lineup that didn't include Johnny Damon, Manny Ramirez, Jason Varitek and Edgar Renteria. Damon is bothered by a shoulder injury that he aggravated while making a diving catch Tuesday night. Ramirez, Varitek and Renteria were rested after making the trip from Texas, where Boston won two straight games after losing Monday night.

They also were victims of the numbers attached to Cabrera.

Left-handers were batting .314 against him this season. Cabrera held right-handers to a .154 average, lowest in the American League.

"This guy's left-right difference is incredible," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said.

Cabrera walked two in the third, and David Ortiz flied to the warning track in center. One strike away from escaping the jam, he threw a wild pitch that allowed Mark Bellhorn to score.

Control remained an issue with Cabrera, who walked five over four innings and never got comfortable on the mound, even after the grounds crew applied a drying substance to it.

"The conditions really weren't conducive for the big horse," Fasano said.

With two outs in the fifth, Ortiz looped a single into center field, and Nixon doubled to right. Jay Gibbons, reacting as though the ball would land on the flag court, then turned and fielded it off the scoreboard. Ortiz chugged into third base instead of scoring the tying run.

Kevin Millar walked to load the bases, but Olerud never completed his at-bat. "Trot will be kicking himself more than anybody else," Francona said.

Orioles tonight

Opponent: Boston Red Sox

Site, time: Camden Yards, 7:35

TV/Radio: Ch. 13/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: Red Sox's Bronson Arroyo (6-5, 4.15) vs. Orioles' Sidney Ponson (7-6, 5.80)

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