Red Sox' Ortiz Overpowers Orioles

By Jorge Arangure Jr.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 3, 2005

BOSTON, June 2 -- They were beaten because of one ball that traveled just 30 feet and another that went more than 400 feet a few minutes later. They were beaten because five of their relievers did their jobs but their best and most reliable one did not. The Baltimore Orioles departed Boston on Thursday after their 6-4 loss to the Red Sox with a split of an important four-game series that left them with an empty feeling. A successful trip to Boston that should have brought a sense of satisfaction, instead will once again test this team left ragged by injuries.

"That's a tough loss right now," Orioles Manager Lee Mazzilli said. "The way the guys battled in the bullpen, they came in there and did the job. Coming into this ballpark, being a little short-handed with our guys and they battle their butts off and get the lead, yeah, that's a tough loss regardless of whether we won two."

With two outs and a one-run lead with a man on first in the ninth, Orioles closer B.J. Ryan faced Edgar Renteria, who took a quick glance at third baseman Melvin Mora just prior to the first pitch of the at-bat. For Mora, that glance raised the possibility that Renteria could bunt -- even with two outs -- in order to bring up David Ortiz. But Mora was torn. Knowing that Renteria is a capable hitter, Mora did not want to play too shallow and give up the left field line. So Mora played deep.

"I saw the third baseman way back," Renteria said. "I know if I put a bunt down I was going to be safe."

Renteria sent a bunt down the third base line. Mora fielded the ball but had no play, so he didn't even make a throw.

"I knew he was going to do something," Mora said. "But what if he bunts a popup to the pitcher? He bunted it perfect. Not too many people do that."

Ortiz followed with a towering three-run homer to center field against Ryan, ruining Baltimore's comeback from a two-run deficit against Matt Clement, Boston's best pitcher. The Orioles had taken the lead in the ninth against closer Keith Foulke.

"I just left it over the plate," Ryan, who had not allowed a run in 16 1/3 innings prior to Thursday, said of the pitch to Ortiz. "It was just up. He hit it. I made a mistake and paid for it."

This is what the starting lineup of the first-place team, which leads the American League East by three games, looked like on Thursday: a 40-year-old left fielder (B.J. Surhoff) who before games contorts his body in various positions with core-strengthening exercises to ease the pain on his back; a 20-year-old starting pitcher (Hayden Penn) who arrived at Fenway Park with a suit borrowed from the injured pitcher he replaced in the rotation; a catcher (Sal Fasano) who has spent more than twice as many games in the minors than in the big leagues; a second baseman (Chris Gomez) who was lost in the offseason in the Rule 5 draft and was reacquired for cash later in the offseason.

This is the disheartening reality for the Orioles, who face the possibility that their best player this season, second baseman Brian Roberts, may miss an extended period with a strained right shoulder. Roberts will at least miss this weekend's series against the Detroit Tigers.

Baltimore's temporary solution was to call up infielder-outfielder Ramon Nivar, hitting just .216, from Class AAA Ottawa. To make room, Jeff Fiorentino was optioned to Class A Frederick.

Mazzilli knows that sooner or later some of his veteran players will need rest and the only options on the bench to back them up are career minor leaguers with limited, if any, experience in the majors.

"They've been piling on," Mazzilli said of the injuries that have stricken his team. "It seems like it's all happening at one time. There is a waiting list to see our doctor. Take a number."

Three starting players from Opening Day are on the disabled list. Starting pitcher Erik Bedard, also on the DL, may still be a couple of weeks from returning. Roberts could soon join all of them on the DL.

"If something happens with him, I've lost four starters," Mazzilli said. "That's a pretty big blow. But no one is going to feel sorry for you."

© 2005 The Washington Post Company