O's Keep Control, Thump Red Sox
Tuesday, May 31, 2005
BOSTON, May 30 -- They never seem to panic when everybody else does and they never quite seem to fail when everyone expects it. The Baltimore Orioles had been run out of town by the Detroit Tigers and had almost run themselves out of the game against the Boston Red Sox in the first three innings of the opening game of an important four-game series Monday night. But when David Newhan sent a drive over the right field wall with the bases loaded with two outs in the third inning of the Orioles' 8-1 win against Boston, Baltimore had restored some of the credibility lost after being swept by the Tigers at home over the weekend.
That sweep was an ominous way to head into a 13-game, 14-day trip. But those thoughts have been quickly erased. Now Baltimore's lead in the American League East against the Red Sox and New York Yankees stands at four games.
"We don't panic because I think everybody here understands this is a long season," Miguel Tejada said. "In a long season, you're going to have bad times. When you get those bad times, you have to ignore it. And when you do that, that's when you become a better player and a better team."
How Baltimore performs in this series against Boston will largely shape how outsiders view the Orioles. The baseball world still doubts Baltimore's staying power in the AL East, but the Orioles don't hedge about their chances. This team, for the first time in years, believes it can win. And, perhaps, it's time for others to think that way too.
"I think it's new because now everybody just knows that," Tejada said. "Everybody believes that. Everybody knows on this team that it isn't temporary. Everybody knows that what we're doing now is because we're a good team. Right now we just have in our minds that, if we lose one game, we don't want to lose two."
It appeared the Orioles might squander a hot start against Boston starter Bronson Arroyo. The Orioles had six hits through the first two innings, but scored just two runs and had two men thrown out at home. With the bases loaded and two outs in the third, Newhan had his biggest hit of the year. He began the at-bat 0 and 2 but worked the count full.
"I was able to work myself back into a hitter's count," Newhan said. "He pretty much had to be able to throw a strike."
Baltimore had a 7-0 lead before starter Rodrigo Lopez -- who pitched eight quality innings -- had gone through the entire Boston lineup. The Red Sox didn't mount a serious rally against Lopez until the eighth. Lopez allowed six hits in eight innings and one unearned run. Since 2002, he has beaten the Red Sox nine times, the most wins by any pitcher against Boston in that time. The nine wins are also the most Lopez has against any team in his career.
"I like to come here, even when I'm not pitching," Lopez said of Fenway Park, where he is 6-1. "These fans have intensity and are into the game."
There were doubts about Lopez last week prior to his start against the Seattle Mariners. He had slumped and many wondered whether Lopez was truly an overmatched ace. But in the past two starts, he has pitched 16 innings, allowing just one earned run and 11 hits. He, like his teammates, has proven resilient.
It is almost impossible to think that any team with Tejada will fade toward the finish. He is a rush of adrenaline, and a shot of espresso after wins, and is surly and unapproachable after losses. Baltimore's temperament is measured through its leader. In the third inning with just a 2-0 lead, Tejada dove head first into home on a single by Rafael Palmeiro. The shortstop was called safe, but the play left him with pain in his left shoulder. Tejada said he was bothered by the shoulder in his next three at-bats, one of which was a single to left field. He left no doubt, though, he would be in the lineup again Tuesday.
"Our team has a lot of respect for everybody," Tejada said. "We respect the Red Sox and Yankees because those two teams have made the playoffs the last two years. It doesn't matter what we do right now, we're going to keep having respect for everyone. But we have to keep playing hard."