Red Sox 3, Orioles 2
-- For most of the season, Baltimore Orioles Manager Lee Mazzilli has been unwavering in his support of closer Jorge Julio. After a bad outing, and there have been many, Mazzilli insisted that Julio would be his closer without fail.
In Tuesday's 3-2 loss to the Red Sox, during which Boston scored the game's first run in the bottom of the eighth and the Orioles got two in the top of the ninth, Mazzilli hesitated to use Julio in the bottom of the inning. Instead, he allowed matchups to dictate his use of relievers.
B.J. Ryan, who recorded the final two outs of the eighth, was allowed to start the ninth. Mazzilli's decision rested on the numbers. Bill Mueller, batting second in the inning, had a batting average 37 points lower against left-handers. Johnny Damon, the scheduled fourth batter of the inning, hit 42 points lower against southpaws.
But Mazzilli's strategy failed when Ryan walked Kevin Youkilis to start the inning and then allowed a double off the left field wall to Mueller. While Ryan faltered, Julio remained in the bullpen.
"That is his decision," Julio said in Spanish. "I have to respect that. But I was ready at the start of the ninth."
Ryan retired the next two batters, then Mazzilli finally decided to bring in Julio to face Mark Bellhorn, who entered Tuesday's game hitting 69 points higher against lefties. Ryan stood with his arms on his hips, seemingly in disbelief he was not allowed to finish the inning. Bellhorn hit a single to deep center, scoring Mueller and Youkilis.
After the game Ryan, apparently still upset, dressed in the trainer's room and immediately left the clubhouse without speaking with reporters.
"We had the right guys in the right spots against the right hitters," Mazzilli said. "The matchups were good."
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 scoreless innings and allowed just three hits while striking out a season-high 14.
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 through the first five innings was a single to center by B.J. Surhoff.
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.
"I think he understands what his job is and he takes it very seriously," Boston Manager Terry Francona said of Schilling. "I thought in the eighth that was the best he's thrown."
Though not nearly as dominant, Rodrigo 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, he 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.
"I don't know what it is," Lopez said in Spanish. "I like to pitch here. The fans are into the game."
By the eighth Lopez appeared exhausted. Prior to the start of the bottom of the eighth, the umpiring crew gathered at the mound and asked Lopez to remove his hat. The umpires checked the bill of the hat, but found no foreign substance.
"I've pitched a long time," Lopez said. "I don't cheat. I don't need to bring anything else on the mound."
Perhaps unnerved, Lopez walked Damon and Bellhorn to start the inning. Jason Grimsley entered the game and forced Ramirez into a groundout, advancing Damon and Bellhorn. Grimsley was asked to intentionally walk Ortiz. Ryan was summoned to face pinch hitter Kevin Millar with the bases loaded. Millar hit a sacrifice fly to right field.
Orioles Note: Rafael Palmeiro was kept out of the starting lineup because of a slightly strained right hamstring.