Red Sox 6, Orioles 3

Reprinted from yesterday's late editions

-- Now that Babe Ruth has finally been mercifully put to rest, ending 86 years of a mythical curse that plagued the Boston Red Sox, who shall all the rabid New Englanders blame for their beloved team's collapse this season? It is not the curse of Mark Bellhorn or the curse of Alan Embree, both former Red Sox now on the Yankees, that sinks this team. Instead, perhaps the curse of a bad bullpen.

That is why it seemed ominous that starter Bronson Arroyo, the formerly dreadlocked pitcher for the Red Sox, had started so slowly against the Baltimore Orioles. Once a power-hitting team, the Orioles had turned hapless in the second half of the season and it seemed unusual that they had begun so well, slapping balls across the field against Arroyo. But when the Orioles had just three runs after three innings against Arroyo after so much success, it seemed Boston had been given an opening.

"I think their lineup is a little watered down obviously," Arroyo said of the Orioles. "It made a difference. When you get on a roll it's definitely easier to beat up the bottom part of the lineup."

The Red Sox, who were four games ahead of the Yankees in the American League East on Sept. 10, but now one game back, rallied behind Arroyo's strong recovery and their beleaguered bullpen held off their free-fall with a 6-3 win against the Orioles on Friday night.

Miguel Tejada's fifth inning had allowed the Red Sox to take the lead. How Boston added to their lead was yet another unfortunate turn of events for Baltimore. In the seventh inning, left-handed reliever Eric DuBose, a soft-tossing junk-baller, allowed a single to Edgar Renteria to start the frame. Then with one out, Ramirez approached the plate.

Now here stood the classic manager conundrum. Should Orioles interim manager Sam Perlozzo defy conventional baseball wisdom and allow the left-handed DuBose to pitch against the right-handed Ramirez even though the left fielder entered the game hitting just .232 against southpaws? Or does Perlozzo yank DuBose and bring in rookie right-handed reliever Chris Ray, who had been warming up since the start of the inning and is generally considered to be one of the better young reliever talents in baseball, though Ramirez hits .313 against righties?

It seemed perhaps odd at the time, but Perlozzo followed the numbers and let DuBose pitch to Ramirez.

"He was 0 for 5 against [DuBose]," Perlozzo said of Ramirez. "I didn't care if he walked him. We got Nixon on deck, who he handled easily as it turned out. I was comfortable with that."

It was Perlozzo's biggest mistake of the night. DuBose worked the count full to Ramirez before the left fielder sent a ball into the Baltimore night sky for a majestic two-run home run that landed in the Boston bullpen in center field.

Perlozzo only lamented that DuBose had thrown a fastball instead of a change-up -- which the manager considers the reliever's best pitch -- on the home run.

"If you're gonna let Manny hit something out of the ballpark, is he going to hit your best pitch, your second-best pitch or your third-best pitch?" Perlozzo said. "What is it?"

With the home run, Ramirez became only the second Red Sox player, joining Carl Yastrzemski, to hit 40 or more runs in three seasons.

The point must be made that Perlozzo went with conventional wisdom in the ninth inning and had the right-handed Jason Grimsley, after removing the left-handed Tim Byrdak, pitch to Ramirez with a man on base. Ramirez grounded into a double play.

Eventually, the Red Sox, after Arroyo threw seven solid innings, had to entrust the game to that cursed bullpen, which ranked next to last in the majors with a 5.42 ERA entering Friday's game. But it did not falter.