Orioles Continue to Beat Up on the Red Sox
Saturday, September 3, 2005
BOSTON, Sept. 2 -- Not even the best computer with a powerful chip in its hard drive, or the oft-used one that sits on Boston Red Sox General Manager Theo Epstein's desk can calculate why the Baltimore Orioles seem to cause his team fits. It is simple for Epstein to compute why David Ortiz's near .400 on-base percentage makes him one of the best players in baseball and one of the most feared hitters. It is not logical that Baltimore's 27 wins -- including a 7-3 victory on Friday night at Fenway Park -- against the Red Sox are tied for the most wins against any team in the past three seasons.
The Orioles have also beaten the Tampa Bay Devil Rays 27 times the past three years, but that is understandable. What isn't is the Orioles are 27-24 against the Red Sox since the 2003 season and have won eight of the past 11 games.
"It just happens," Orioles interim manager Sam Perlozzo said. "I don't know why it happens."
Baltimore's six pitchers, two of whom have ERAs above 4.00, held the Red Sox to just three runs, the first time in 14 games they had not scored seven or more runs at Fenway, and just four hits.
"It's kind of a rarity when we don't throw a bunch of hits up there," Red Sox Manager Terry Francona said.
The Orioles have scored four or more runs 20 times against Boston the past two seasons and have outscored the Red Sox 59-22 in their eight wins this year. It has not just been the superstars who have pounded Boston pitching. On Friday, it was a pair of unlikely heroes who provided the winning margin.
Only four players in baseball with 300 or more at-bats had fewer RBI than Orioles center fielder Luis Matos entering Friday night. But Matos got his 24th and 25th RBI of the season on Friday with a double off the Green Monster in left field in the second inning against Boston starter Lenny DiNardo. Matos had three hits on the night and a stolen base.
"I'm not worried about that," Matos said of his low RBI total. "We have a lot of guys whose job that is."
Then in the fourth inning Alejandro Freire, the 31-year-old rookie who had never played in a major league game prior to this season, sent a drive that just wrapped around Fenway's infamous Pesky Pole in right field for his first career home run. The Orioles had a 4-2 lead. Members of the Orioles bullpen retrieved the ball for Freire, who put in his jean pocket as he left the clubhouse after the game.
"I'm just living day by day," Freire said. "I'm playing here and I don't believe it."
It appeared Boston would again punish one of Baltimore's starting pitchers when in the first inning of Friday's game Jason Varitek drove in two runs against Orioles starter John Maine with a bases-loaded double to left field. Maine appeared dazed in that inning and it appeared he would not last long in the game.
But Maine's outing on Friday was impressive if not lengthy. He allowed three runs -- two earned -- but walked five, which put his pitch count at 100 after he recorded the final out in the fifth inning.
"You get up watching people play here," Maine said of pitching at Fenway. "It was real fun."
Known as a soft-thrower, Maine consistently hit the radar gun at 93 mph and seemed to have good location on his pitches. Maine struck out five in his five innings and perhaps earned yet another start that may count toward next year's rotation.
Maine is certainly auditioning for a spot in next year's rotation. Once considered a top prospect by Baltimore, Maine's value has fallen considerably in the past year. Maine was offered to several teams during this year's trade deadline, but no team was interested. If he was to regain any value, it would have to be while trying to earn a spot on the major league roster.
Though the Red Sox held a comfortable 3 1/2 -game lead in the American League East at the start of Friday's game, Francona treated the seventh inning as if it was the seventh game of the World Series. In that inning, in which the Orioles scored two runs to put the game away, Francona used four pitchers to try to stop Baltimore. It did not work. The Orioles added another run in the ninth and cruised for yet another unlikely victory against the Red Sox.