O's take one from Red Sox, 9-1

Palmeiro's six RBIs, Matos' glove work move Orioles back into second

Hot Palmeiro 3 hits from 3,000

Tejada adds 5 hits, Chen rebounds, but all eyes are on O's first baseman

July 10, 2005|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli vows to provide more rest for Rafael Palmeiro in the second half to keep him fresh. The plan makes sense. The logic is sound.

It just can't happen anytime soon.

Palmeiro is too busy trying to win games and chase a milestone, one that burdens him because of the media's preoccupation with it. His 40-year-old body will need to be handled more carefully in the coming months. Right now, he's only interested in handling a bat.

Playing before 49,331, the largest crowd this season at Camden Yards, Palmeiro collected two more hits and drove in six runs in a 9-1 victory over the Boston Red Sox yesterday that contained an abundance of impressive elements and returned the Orioles to second place.

Palmeiro's three-run home run in the third inning broke a 1-1 tie and raised his career total to 565. His single in the seventh followed a triple by Miguel Tejada, who went 5-for-5, and gave him 2,997 hits.

Three more and he becomes only the fourth player in major league history with 500 homers and 3,000 hits.

"I guess he wants to get it real quick," Mazzilli said. "I know he's trying."

If it doesn't happen today, Palmeiro most likely will reach the milestone on the road. The Orioles don't return to Camden Yards until July 25.

"I would love to do it for the sake of the fans, being at home," he said.

The hits would have to come today, when the Red Sox will start knuckleballer Tim Wakefield. Palmeiro is 9-for-55 (.164) against him, increasing the challenge.

"Three bunts," Palmeiro joked.

The Orioles (46-40) dropped out of second place with Friday's loss, but they're assured of doing no worse than splitting the series. They were 0-4-1 in their previous five series.

"We don't have anything to prove," Tejada said. "We just want to win games."

Tejada came within a homer of becoming the first Oriole to hit for the cycle since Cal Ripken in 1984. Batting for the last time in the eighth inning, he lined a double down the right-field line to score rookie Eli Whiteside.

"I really was thinking about bringing the runner in," Tejada said. "I didn't even know I had a chance at the cycle."

Left-hander Bruce Chen rebounded from his worst outing to hold the Red Sox to one run over seven innings. He left the game after Johnny Damon opened the eighth with Boston's fifth hit.

"I felt good," said Chen, who lasted only 1 1/3 innings in Monday's start at Yankee Stadium. "I felt like I was making my pitches."

Chen (7-5) had plenty of support. Center fielder Luis Matos made two spectacular plays, robbing David Ortiz of a three-run homer in the third and diving to catch Kevin Millar's line drive in the fourth.

Ortiz lowered his head and applauded Matos, who scaled the fence in front of the Orioles' bullpen. Chen raised both arms as Matos lay on the warning track, assuming the catch had been made but not seeing the ball.

"I thought he got it," Chen said, "but then I was like, `Wait, wait, wait,' just in case. I didn't want to be celebrating too soon."

Tying three other starters for the team lead in victories, Chen won for only the second time since May 18. After Edgar Renteria's run-scoring single in the third, he didn't allow another hit until the eighth.

Chen wouldn't blame his previous start on a sprained big toe, an injury he suffered while running to first base in a June 25 game in Atlanta. But he was limping in New York, and one veteran said, "He can't push off on his left foot."

"When I was in New York, I was out of whack," Chen said. "Ray [Miller] and I worked on staying back and making sure I got on top of the ball. One side session and I felt good."

The game was filled with defensive gems. Brian Roberts ranged behind second base to snare Kevin Youkilis' bouncer and throw him out. Tejada ranged far to his right to backhand a ball and fire to second to begin a double play. Melvin Mora short-hopped a bouncer from Jason Varitek, charging the ball and fielding it with a scooping motion, and threw him out. And Larry Bigbie made a sliding catch in foul territory in the ninth.

"Today," Tejada said, "there were defensive plays everywhere."

All eyes seem fixed on Palmeiro, who drove in the Orioles' first five runs. The scoreboard in center field reminds him of the hit total. His youngest son, Preston, videotaped each at-bat from the stands yesterday. He has become the center of attention, whether he likes it or not.

"I think if we were winning, it would be a little more enjoyable," Palmeiro said. "I'm just trying to get it over with so we can focus on winning games and just focus on the team."

Driving forces

Rafael Palmeiro's six RBIs yesterday tied a Camden Yards record for Orioles players:

Player Yr. Opp.

Rafael Palmeiro '05 Red Sox

Jay Gibbons '03 Brewers

Lenny Webster '98 Athletics

Roberto Alomar '97 Red Sox

Eric Davis '97 W. Sox

Orioles today

Opponent: Boston Red Sox

Site, time: Camden Yards, 1:35 p.m.

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

Starters: Red Sox's Tim Wakefield (8-6, 3.98) vs. Orioles' Rodrigo Lopez (7-5, 4.72)

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