O's keep moving in positive direction

Maine tops Red Sox, 7-3, as team wins third in row

Friday's game

Baseball

September 04, 2005|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

BOSTON - The elements that go into winning a game at Fenway Park as the visiting team are becoming more complicated, and they don't usually include a rookie pitcher. The heavy lifting is supposed to be done by experienced hands, not ones that might begin to shake.

Exposed to hostile surroundings for the first time in the majors, John Maine went five innings and left with a one-run lead, and Alejandro Freire hit his first homer in the Orioles' 7-3 victory over the Boston Red Sox on Friday night before 35,156.

Maine held the Red Sox to two hits, both in the first inning, and improved to 2-1. Freire sliced an opposite-field homer to right in the fourth off Red Sox left-hander Lenny DiNardo, and the Orioles (64-70) pushed their winning streak to three games.

Brian Roberts and Miguel Tejada drove in runs in the seventh, and Jay Gibbons, moved to the cleanup slot, added an RBI single in the ninth, as the Red Sox lost for only the 10th time in 34 games. The Orioles won't threaten them in the American League East, but they can be a nuisance.

"We've been in a funk for a long time," interim manager Sam Perlozzo said on Friday, "so we've got plenty of days where we should be hitting."

That's the Red Sox's specialty. They've won 19 of their past 21 games at home, including 14 in a row before Friday night's loss, and are 44-20 at Fenway this season. They were batting .326 in the past 20 games here before Friday night, averaging 8.4 runs and 11.2 hits.

This wasn't an ideal place for an inexperienced pitcher to hone his craft, but Maine had no choice. The Orioles handed him the ball and wished him luck.

"It was exciting," he said. "You hear it's a great atmosphere and you grow up watching people play here. It's got a great history."

Said Perlozzo: "I know I was a little nervous about five or six days ago, saying, `Johnny, you've got to go in there on a Friday night.'"

The Orioles scored three times off DiNardo in the second inning to take a 3-2 lead. All of the runs came with two outs, and none of them was earned after third baseman Bill Mueller misplayed Javy Lopez's hard grounder near the line.

Mueller tried to make a backhanded stab while staying low to the ground and protecting himself from a tough hop. The play could have been ruled a hit. Either way, it hurt the Red Sox.

Eric Byrnes walked and Chris Gomez singled to score Lopez. Luis Matos followed with a drive off the Green Monster that produced two more runs and gave him 25 RBIs this season.

"I don't worry about that," he said. "My job is to get on base."

Every start is a learning experience for a young pitcher like Maine. Friday night, he discovered that it's foolish to load the bases against the Red Sox.

Jason Varitek's two-out double scored Edgar Renteria and Manny Ramirez in the first inning and gave Boston a 2-0 lead. Trot Nixon walked with two outs to extend the inning, and Varitek pounced on the opportunity.

Varitek's double was the last hit off Maine, who threw 100 pitches. He walked five.

"He wasn't wild," Perlozzo said. "There's a difference between wild and guys who are just missing. He was just off the plate. He kept the ball down and pitched pretty good when he had to."

An error and two walks loaded the bases again in the fourth. Johnny Damon flied to the warning track in center to score John Olerud for the Red Sox's last run. They were blanked over the last four innings by Eric DuBose, Chris Ray, Steve Kline, Todd Williams and B.J. Ryan.

"It seems like we need all of them to get through this lineup," Perlozzo said.

Maine was making his fourth start with the Orioles, the third this season. He never faced the Red Sox before Friday night, and his pitch count wouldn't allow him to continue past the fifth. But the last inning was his finest, when he got a ground ball, strikeout and pop-up.

"Mechanically, I've got things to work on," Maine said. "I know I have to decrease my walks, but they didn't hurt me too much."

Freire, 31, made his major league debut on Aug. 9 after his contract was purchased from Triple-A Ottawa. The Orioles optioned him to Double-A Bowie two weeks later before recalling him last Sunday when Sammy Sosa went on the disabled list.

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