Orioles 8-0, Red Sox 3-4
The Baltimore Orioles escaped Beantown late Thursday night just before it was to be overrun with Democratic conventioneers and Yankees fans. As they made their way home above the Atlantic seaboard, following a split of a grueling day-night doubleheader against the Boston Red Sox, the Orioles were short on sleep and stamina, but secure in the knowledge that their season has been saved, at least temporarily, from ruin.
Over some 51/2 hours and 18 innings of baseball -- an 8-3 win in the afternoon, and a 4-0 loss at night -- the Orioles suffered cramps of the legs and the mind, made plays both divine and ridiculous, crushed a 21-year-old left-hander who was only a year out of college and flailed helplessly against a right-hander whose best pitches clocked in at around 65 mph.
But by emerging with a split, the Orioles (43-51) wrapped up a series win, as well as a 6-3 road trip spread across eight days in Tampa Bay, Kansas City and Boston -- an odyssey that allowed them to forget their nightmarish first half and look ahead to the final 10 weeks of the season with something resembling hope.
"Things look a lot better," veteran catcher Javy Lopez said. "With the team we have, there's no reason to be in the position we were in. We still have time to become the team everyone thought we should be."
Meantime, the Red Sox (52-43), despite winning in Game 2 behind seven shutout innings from veteran knuckleballer Tim Wakefield (6-6), cannot hide their problems. As they prepare to face the Yankees this weekend, they are a mere 37-37 since May 1, and are 81/2 games behind New York in the American League East.
Not much was pretty about the Orioles' performance Thursday.
Their loss in Game 2 boiled down to one bad inning, the first, in which they ran themselves out of a big inning in the top half, then saw right-hander Dave Borkowski labor through a 37-pitch inning while giving up three runs in the bottom half.
Two batters into the game, the Orioles had runners on the corners and nobody out. But when Melvin Mora sent a fly ball to shallow left field, third base coach Tom Trebelhorn made the ill-fated decision to send Brian Roberts, the runner on third, toward home. Roberts was thrown out easily, defusing what would be the Orioles' best scoring chance of the game.
"With no outs, you have to be sure," said Manager Lee Mazzilli, appearing still upset about Trebelhorn's decision nearly three hours later. "That kind of turned a little momentum around right there."
"He said, 'Go hard,' " Roberts said of Trebelhorn. "So I went."
In the bottom half of the inning, Borkowski seemed to lose his focus following a balk call that he did not like, as he gave up three straight singles at one point, leading to three runs.
Even in winning Game 1 -- thanks to six effective innings from Rodrigo Lopez (8-6) and two homers from Mora -- the Orioles managed to make a slew of egregious mistakes.
Jerry Hairston got picked off third base in the second inning. Miguel Tejada forgot the number of outs and got tagged out in the third. Trebelhorn got Javy Lopez thrown out at the plate by 10 feet in the fifth. Meanwhile, their defense allowed David Ortiz, the Red Sox' lumbering first baseman, to leg out a pair of triples.
Still, for several hours following their win, the Orioles could bask in the glow of being only seven games under .500 for the first time since June 16.
The win came at the expense of Red Sox debutant Abe Alvarez, a 21-year-old lefty the team called up from Class AA to make the start. He was chosen largely because of the Orioles' record of futility (10-21 entering the day) in games started by lefties.
But Tejada blasted a two-run homer off Alvarez in the first inning, Mora connected off him in the third, and the Orioles knocked him from the game after five, ensuring Alvarez would not join Mark Hendrickson, John Halama, Darrell May, Casey Fossum et al. on the list of undistinguished lefties who have beaten the Orioles.
One of the lasting images of this series will be of Red Sox hitters bashing countless line drives directly into the gloves of Orioles defenders. The Orioles always seemed to be positioned in exactly the right spot, a testament to the reporting of advance scout Deacon Jones.
The first game ended with Tejada writhing in agony in the grass in shallow center field after ranging behind the second base bag to make a dazzling play on a grounder. As the victorious Orioles gathered around Tejada, someone motioned for an emergency vehicle to cart Tejada off the field. But Tejada soon rose to his feet -- it was only a cramp -- and the emergency vehicle went back to its port.
The metaphor was apt. Call off the emergency vehicle. The Orioles, for now anyway, are just fine.
Orioles Notes: Right-hander John Maine (North Stafford High) who will make his major league debut Friday night in Baltimore against the Minnesota Twins, will be given an opportunity to pitch himself into a regular rotation spot, the same way the team did with Cabrera and Borkowski -- both of whom turned spot starts into extended stays and, in the case of Cabrera, a nascent rookie-of-the-year campaign.
"When [Cabrera] came up, we didn't know what we were going to do with him," Mazzilli said. "He pitched that one good game, and we said we'll give him another shot and let him stay in there. That could happen [to Maine] as well." . . .
The team canceled the rehabilitation assignment of veteran designated hitter David Segui after Segui re-injured his surgically repaired knee Monday while playing for Class AA Bowie.
The setback increases the likelihood Segui, 38, will never wear an Orioles uniform again, as he is in the final year of a four-year, $28 million contract and has hinted that he will retire after the season.