Orioles 3, Red Sox 1

For weeks they have appeared cursed, seemingly losing players to injury on a daily basis as they fell from first place in the standings.

But the Baltimore Orioles received some good fortune Thursday night -- thanks to a constant rain and timely pickoff -- as they beat the Boston Red Sox, 3-1, in a game called after six innings.

The Red Sox were about to send up the top of their lineup in the seventh inning when the umpires ordered the grounds crew to cover the field with a tarp. The game never started again, and the Orioles gladly took the rain-shortened win to start a four-game series that could go a long way in determining how Baltimore's season plays out.

"We needed a break," Orioles Manager Lee Mazzilli said.

If Baltimore wants to re-establish itself as a contender in the American League East, it might need to take three of four games from the Red Sox. A split in the series would leave the Orioles four games back at the all-star break. Losing three of four -- which would put the Orioles six games back at the break -- might seriously hurt their chances at a division title.

The game may have been saved when shortstop Miguel Tejada noticed that Boston's Trot Nixon had veered too far off second base on pitcher Daniel Cabrera's first delivery to John Olerud with the bases loaded in the fifth inning.

On the second pitch of the at-bat, Tejada moved behind Nixon and Fasano delivered a strong throw from home to nab Nixon.

"I gave [catcher Sal Fasano] a signal when I saw the pitch was a fastball," Tejada said. "He had a very big jump off second base when the ball was in the air."

After the play, Fasano and Cabrera pumped their fists in celebration while Nixon remained on the ground in disbelief.

"I was fired up, I'm not going to lie to you," Fasano said. "We needed a play right then because the momentum was just starting to swing. I hadn't been that excited in a while; I probably shouldn't have showed it as much as I did."

After the game, Nixon sat alone in the corner of the clubhouse and said the reason for the play was simple stupidity.

"I helped out Cabrera," Nixon said. "I just got too far off the bag. Stupidity, great opportunity for Olerud to come up with a big hit and, trying to get that extra lead, that extra little jump. It probably lost the game for us."

Cabrera's control problems, on display in the third and fifth innings, were blamed on the weather and not his new delivery.

"In the fifth inning I had a little trouble with the mound," Cabrera said. "But I didn't want to stop the game right there because if we stop the game right there, we can't win the game. The whole time it's raining and I don't like to make excuses, but maybe that's why" he had control problems.

Rain fell on the field for most of the night and appeared to cause trouble for pitchers on both sides.

"I can't believe we got through six," Fasano said. "I really thought at five they were going to bang it because it's miserable. And the field just got worse and worse."

With a 3-0 count on Kevin Millar in the fifth inning, Cabrera asked for the grounds crew to apply dirt on the muddy mound. The crew worked for several moments before Cabrera was satisfied with the mound's condition.

"Daniel is a big man plus you got a wet mound and that's dangerous out there," Fasano said. "Then he gets a little bit of control problem. That's kind of a scary thing for everybody. The conditions weren't conducive for the big horse."

Cabrera's line properly reflected his inconsistency: 5 innings, 3 hits, 1 run, 5 walks, 8 strikeouts and 106 pitches.

The Orioles scored two runs off Boston starter David Wells in the third inning on home runs by Eli Marrero and Melvin Mora. Sammy Sosa added an RBI single in the sixth inning. The RBI was the first for Sosa since June 19 -- a span of 47 at-bats.

After the game, Mazzilli was asked whether he felt any guilt that his team's important win had come with the help of Mother Nature. The manager smiled and said, "You kidding me?"

The Orioles' Melvin Mora keeps track of the home run he belted against the Red Sox in the third inning. The game, the first of four in the series, was called after six innings because of rain.

The Orioles' Miguel Tejada keeps hold of the baseball while creating some elbow room after tagging out the Red Sox' Trot Nixon on a quick throw from catcher Sal Fasano in the fifth inning.

Red Sox starter David Wells struggles against the Orioles. He left with the loss and a 5.00 ERA.