Red Sox 3, Orioles 2
-- Lee Mazzilli's confidence in closer Jorge Julio appears unwavering.
Though B.J. Ryan was one out from beating the Red Sox, Mazzilli brought in Julio with runners on second and third with two outs in the ninth inning with a one-run lead Tuesday night. Julio allowed a two-run single to Mark Bellhorn to give Boston a 3-2 win at Fenway Park.
If the Red Sox ended the season within a whisper of the New York Yankees or out of the playoffs, they could easily blame the Orioles for their seventh consecutive second-place finish and 86th season without a World Series titles. Prior to Tuesday, the Orioles had beaten Boston eight of the 12 times the two teams had played each other.
A two-run home run by Javy Lopez in the ninth inning against Boston closer Keith Foulke spoiled a Cy Young-type performance by Curt Schilling, who threw eight shutout innings, allowing just three hits while striking out a season-high 14.
But a rally against Ryan in the ninth inning, while Julio stood waiting in the bullpen, gave Boston a chance. Though Ryan had allowed the first two runners to reach base, he got the next two outs. But Mazzilli instead chose to bring in Julio.
A loss to the Orioles on Monday had given Red Sox fans a cause for concern. The loss had been Boston's third in a row, keeping them 4 1/2 games behind the Yankees. But perhaps most frightening for Boston, the Anaheim Angels had crept to within 4 1/2 games of the wild-card lead. Schilling had appeared to break the slump.
Twelve of the first 13 pitches Schilling threw were strikes. He struck out eight through the first four innings. The only pitch hit out of the infield by the Orioles through the first five innings was a single to center by B.J. Surhoff.
In one of the only rallies against Schilling, Brian Roberts singled to start the sixth. Dave Newhan failed to advance him to second, popping out on a sacrifice bunt. Melvin Mora struck out on a splitter near his feet and Miguel Tejada grounded out to third to end the inning.
Perhaps the only encouraging sign for the Orioles was that Schilling's pitch count rose quickly. By the end of the top of the fifth, Schilling had thrown 81 pitches.
But Schilling quickly dispatched the Orioles in the sixth and seventh innings. In the eighth Larry Bigbie singled to start the inning and stole second. After a botched sacrifice bunt effort by Luis Lopez, Schilling struck out Brian Roberts on a 94-mph fastball. He ended the inning by striking out David Newhan with an 84-mph splitter, his 114th and final pitch of the game.
Though with not nearly as dominant nor breathtaking, Lopez equaled Schilling in scoreless innings through the first seven innings. Lopez allowed just five hits.
Fenway Park, a place that has been known to swallow certain pitchers, has been a haven for Lopez. In his career, Lopez was 5-1 with a 2.25 ERA at Fenway prior to Tuesday's game. In his rookie season, Lopez won all three starts at Fenway.
Instead of tiring, Lopez appeared to grow stronger.