Orioles, Borkowski Pick Up The Pace
Lopez Homers Twice In Win Over Boston: Orioles 4, Red Sox 1
By Dave Sheinin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 29, 2004; Page D01
BALTIMORE, July 28 -- From the way the players pitched and hit Wednesday night, to the way the front office continues to work the telephones, to the way the manager answers questions, the Baltimore Orioles, as an organization, are operating with a palpable sense of urgency that belies their humble record and humble standing in their own division.
In one of their most crisply played games of the season, the Orioles used a pair of homers from catcher Javy Lopez and seven brilliant innings from right-hander Dave Borkowski to defeat Curt Schilling and the Boston Red Sox, 4-1, in front of 45,780 at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
Borkowski, 27, was masterful in shutting down the Red Sox' potent lineup, allowing only three base runners while striking out seven. The owner of a 3-11 career record entering the game, in his 10th year of professional ball, Borkowski (2-2) found himself leaving the mound to a standing ovation one batter into the eighth.
"Oh," gushed Manager Lee Mazzilli, "what a job he did."
Meantime, Lopez was almost single-handedly destroying Schilling (12-5). He broke a scoreless tie in the fifth with a towering solo homer to left, then crushed a two-run homer to center in the seventh. They were Lopez's 13th and 14th homers of the season, but his first since the all-star break.
"What can I say?" Lopez said. "It was a great feeling."
Do wins and losses matter so much at this point? Wednesday night's win left the Orioles still in fourth place in the American League East, 17 1/2 games behind the New York Yankees -- whom they will face for the next four games, beginning Thursday night at Yankee Stadium -- and 10 1/2 games out of a wild-card spot.
Still, when Mazzilli was asked before the game whether he felt the team was in contention, he replied: "We're going to stay in this as long as we possibly can, until we're out of it. Funnier things have happened in this game."
Whether Mazzilli is simply fighting the perception that his job is in danger, he is putting forth the company line. As Saturday's 4 p.m. non-waiver trade deadline approaches, the Orioles' front office continues to tell potential trade partners they will not accept prospects for their major league talent -- a stance that has alienated some teams and limited the pool of partners.
As Mazzilli said: "You don't know what you're going to get out of a prospect. We're not looking for something that's four years down the road."
If the Orioles played every game the way they did Wednesday night, there would be no question that their approach is the correct one.
After seeing a 4-2 Orioles lead wiped out Tuesday night when heavy rains struck during the third inning -- forcing a postponement that erased all individual statistics from the game -- the Orioles and Red Sox played as if they expected a similar downpour Wednesday night and were determined to get an official game in.
The entire game took only 2 hours 6 minutes, with Schilling and Borkowski trading crisp pitches and scoreless frames until Lopez blasted a first-pitch fastball to left, almost clearing the first section of seats in the lower bowl, some 25 rows deep.
An inning later, Jerry Hairston's leadoff double into the left field corner begat another run, as Brian Roberts sacrificed him to third, and Luis Lopez -- making a surprise start at designated hitter, batting second -- drove a pitch to the warning track in right-center, deep enough to score Hairston and give the Orioles a 2-0 lead.
Borkowski, wielding a fastball that clocked in at 90 and 91 mph, plus an excellent change-up and curve, retired the first 13 Red Sox batters, until Nomar Garciaparra lined a one-out single to center in the fifth. The Red Sox advanced runners into scoring position only twice, and both times Borkowski escaped.
"It was one of those days," he said, "when I went out there and had almost everything." He recalled shaking off Javy Lopez's sign only once or twice the entire game.
All that was left was six outs from left-hander B.J. Ryan. Although he allowed a solo homer to David Ortiz -- just the third hit and first home run he has allowed to a left-handed hitter all season -- with two outs in the ninth, he struck out Manny Ramirez to end the game.
"He's my best," Mazzilli said of Ryan.
Orioles Notes: Team officials, who as recently as Tuesday were speaking cautiously about the possibility of making any major trades this week, expressed more optimism Wednesday following a productive day of telephone conversations with rival teams.
After weeks of focusing on the Oakland Athletics as their likeliest trade partner in a deal involving one of the Orioles' second basemen -- Hairston or Roberts -- team officials were buoyed Wednesday by the emergence of a new potential suitor. Team officials would not disclose the identity of the "surprise" team that has become interested in Roberts or Hairston. . . .
Right-hander Todd Williams, who was struck near the base of his skull by Gabe Kapler's line drive Monday night, has reported a quick recovery and could be ready to pitch as soon as Thursday night.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company