By Jorge Arangure Jr.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 26, 2005
BOSTON, April 25 -- On a frigid night in Boston, one that seemed particularly reminiscent of those recent fall postseason evenings here in Fenway Park, the Baltimore Orioles made one loud counterpoint to those who believe the American League East belongs to the New York Yankees and Red Sox. No matter what happens in the next two days, the Orioles will leave Boston in first place after their 8-4 win against the Red Sox on Monday.
Whatever statement might be made in this series was not to be taken too seriously, Baltimore Manager Lee Mazzilli said.
"We won tonight, guys feel good in that clubhouse," Mazzilli said. "But you know what, [Tuesday] we've got to come out and we've got to do it again."
A statement made on Monday was that no pitcher, not even one who had dominated them a week ago, will regularly slow down the Orioles' offense. Another was that a journeyman pitcher, discarded and disregarded by teams last year, can win in the majors even on a night when his best pitches weren't available.
"In this ballpark, against this club, when you don't have your best stuff, to go in and go deep into the game, that's impressive to me," Mazzilli said of starter Bruce Chen.
With each day it remains in first place, Baltimore is building its case as a contender. The Orioles lead the Red Sox by two games with four games left to play in April. Not since 1997 have the Orioles been in first place this far into the season.
To rout the Red Sox, Baltimore pounded starter David Wells, who pitched eight scoreless innings against them last Wednesday. He allowed six runs in just 3 2/3 innings. The Orioles matched their hit total from last week (three) against Wells in the second inning. Leadoff hitter Brian Roberts sent the first pitch of the game to center field for a single. He then stole second and third. He scored on a groundout by Miguel Tejada.
"Sometimes you can have a good at-bat and see only one pitch," said Roberts, who had three hits and two RBI. "You're not going to steal four, five or six bases every game. But you can't sit back and wait for a home run every game."
Wells, who had so thoroughly dominated the Orioles last week that only one Baltimore batter had reached second base against him, was knocked out of the game with two outs in the fourth inning. He had hurt his right foot in the third inning trying to field a ground ball. After throwing several warmup pitches, Wells allowed a two-run home run to B.J. Surhoff to give the Orioles a 5-2 lead.
"Boomer and I have gone against each other since '87," Surhoff said. "There's no real secrets."
Chen had a tenuous hold of the game almost on every pitch. He never seemed comfortable. He was never consistent. His change-up was hittable. His fastball was only occasionally effective. Often catcher Geronimo Gil or third baseman Melvin Mora visited him on the mound. This was a night Chen did not have his best stuff.
"My change-up, they seemed to have a pretty good idea it was coming," Chen said. "When I had to go to a pitch, I went with the curveball."
Yet he managed to minimize most of the Red Sox' rallies. He allowed three hits and a walk in the first inning, but only two runs. He allowed at least one base runner in each of the first seven innings, but left the game with a 7-3 lead.
A Boston rally in the seventh inning was ended by Todd Williams, who has emerged as the bullpen's best pitcher.
"I feel that if [Mazzilli] needs me to get a ground ball -- it could be in the fifth, sixth or ninth -- I'm going to be ready," Williams said.
He has not allowed an earned run in 10 2/3 innings this year.
"He shut down the momentum, he just changed it right there," Mazzilli said.
Since being shut out in consecutive games at Oriole Park at Camden Yards last week by Boston, the Orioles have scored 32 runs in four games.
By the end of the eighth inning, the usually loyal Red Sox fans had departed Fenway Park. It was the Orioles, though, not the cold, who had driven them away.