Os pick off Red Sox, 3-1

Fasanos pickoff of Nixon at second base is 'play of the game,' Cabera says

Rain-shortens game to 6 innings

Marrero, Mora bot hit homers

O's get 3rd win in their past 14 games

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

Unsure whether he could guide a young starting pitcher through a bases-loaded jam last night, Orioles catcher Sal Fasano came up with an alternate solution. Why not rely on his years of experience, and an arm that still can catch a runner leaning the wrong way? Fasano picked off Trot Nixon to end the fifth inning, exploding out of his crouch and firing the ball to shortstop Miguel Tejada, who applied the tag. The Orioles still had a one-run lead, and reason to believe the losing would stop.

Eli Marrero and M-5Melvin Mora homered in the third inning to move the Orioles ahead, 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.

Marrero reached the left-field seats against David Wells to tie the game at 1, 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.

Play was halted before the seventh as the conditions became worse, putting on hold the Orioles third win in 14 games. They remained M-5one-half game ahead of the New York Yankees.

Daniel Cabrera held the Red Sox to one run over five innings, but his pitch count stood at 106 when manager Lee Mazzilli signaled to the bullpen with fingers crossed. Left-hander Tim Byrdak tossed a scoreless sixth, and the weather took care of the rest.

Cabrera allowed three hits, walked five and struck out eight. He still held the lead after Boston loaded the bases with two outs in the fifth, falling behind Kevin Millar, 2-0, but never throwing another pitch.

Tejada sneaked behind Nixon, took the throw and applied the tag, leaving Nixon sprawled in the dirt.

"That's the game right there," Mazzilli said of the pickoff play. "[Fasano] has experience, hes been around, he knows his surroundings."

"That's the right play at the right time," Cabrera said. "That's the play of the game."

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 Wednesday night. Ramirez, Varitek and Renteria were rested after making the trip from Texas, where Boston won two straight games after a loss Monday night.

They also were victims of the numbers attached to Cabrera.

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

Red Sox manager Terry Francona wanted to win, just not the usual way.

"This guys left-right difference is incredible," he said.

Alex Cora, obtained in a trade with the Cleveland Indians, replaced Renteria at shortstop and batted first. Adam Stern, activated from the 60-day disabled list, replaced Damon in center field.

With the Red Sox lacking their usual punch, Cabrera struck out four of the first seven batters. He caught Doug Mirabelli looking at a slider in the second inning after Nixon singled and John Olerud walked with one out, and he retired Stern on a 98-mph fastball.

Pitching coach Ray Miller visited the mound in the third after Cabrera walked two batters and David Ortiz flied to the warning track in center. One strike away from escaping the jam, Cabrera threw a wild pitch that allowed Mark Bellhorn to score.

Fasano ran down the ball at the screen but didnt have a chance to get Bellhorn. Cabrera unleashed another wild pitch while walking Nixon, the ball bouncing off the plate, but he struck out Millar with a slider.

Control remained an issue with Cabrera. He walked five batters over four innings, and Fasano saved him countless times by blocking pitches in the dirt and shifting from side to side.

"The whole game was rain," Cabrera said of his struggles. "I don't like making excuses, but maybe thats why."

Cabrera (7-7) struck out Cora and Bill Mueller in the fifth, but he fell behind 3-0 to the next three batters. Ortiz dropped a single into center field and Nixon doubled off the out-of-town scoreboard, with right fielder Jay Gibbons reacting as though the ball would land on the flag court. He turned at the last instant to field it, and Ortiz chugged into third base instead of scoring the tying run.

With the count 3-0 to Millar and the conditions worsening in the rain, play was stopped so the grounds crew could apply an absorbent mixture to the mound. Millar walked to load the bases, but Nixon strayed too far from second.

Nixon made a diving catch in the fifth to rob Brian Roberts and save a run, but his gaffe still loomed large.

The lead became bigger when Sosa bounced a single past Wells and into center field. He was 4-for-47 between his last two RBIs.

Cabrera was 0-2 with an 11.57 ERA in three career starts against the Red Sox. In his first outing against them this season, he didnt allow a hit through the first four innings before surrendering four runs in the fifth and losing, 5-1, at Fenway Park.

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