- The Washington Times - Friday, May 12, 2000

BALTIMORE Home-cooking and a familiar bed did nothing to cure the Baltimore Orioles' struggles.

In their first game at Camden Yards since limping home from a road swing that saw them go 1-5 and fall under .500 for the first time since Opening Day, a trio of Orioles pitchers got roughed up by the Boston Red Sox to the tune of 11-4 before 43,619.

The Orioles (16-18) fourth-straight loss matches their longest losing skid of the season and gives them eight defeats in their last nine games. They are now two games under .500 for the first time this season and manager Mike Hargrove's ability to keep the team's morale high amid the losing is being put to the test.

So far, Hargrove is keeping calm while facing the brewing storm.

"This is the same team that played well the first month of the season and we'll play well again… . There's nobody out there that's not trying or giving their best effort… . We're not going to quit. We just have to keep fighting and play our way out of this," he said.

Boston, meanwhile, improved to 19-12 and its chances of adding to that total tonight appear good since they're sending reigning Cy Young Award winner Pedro Martinez to the mound against home run-prone Sidney Ponson.

"With Pedro going, it's going to be an uphill battle," Hargrove said.

The Orioles began the season dominant at home, posting a 9-1 mark. But since then they've only gone 1-5 in Baltimore.

For the seventh time in 18 defeats this season, the Orioles tattered bullpen took the loss. But in what has become a disturbing trend of late, equal blame can be placed on the starter.

Reliever Jose Mercedes gave up four runs in the pivotal sixth inning to break 4-4 deadlock, and B.J. Ryan failed to stop the bleeding, allowing three more runs as the game got out of reach. Carl Everett's mammoth two-run homer off Mercedes in the sixth inning was the key blow for Boston.

"The ballgame opened up on that home run and we never recovered," Hargrove said. "As a pitching staff, what we have been unable to do [during the recent slide] is when a crack appears, to pitch over it and seal the crack. We didn't do that again tonight."

The Orioles bats were not without blame after failing to take better advantage of the struggles of Red Sox starter Tim Wakefield and for going to sleep once he left the game in the fourth inning.

Courtesy of Wakefield walks, the Orioles had runners at first and second with none out in the first. But Albert Belle then lunged at the first pitch he saw and hit into a double play. In the next two innings, Mike Bordick and B.J. Surhoff were each stranded at second.

Meanwhile, Pat Rapp put the Orioles in an early hole against his former teammates. The Orioles starter spent last season with the Red Sox but despite a strong end to the season (4-2, 3.17 ERA over his final 13 starts), Boston opted against exercising a $3 million option for this season.

Once he became a free agent, the Red Sox tried to re-sign him for less money but Rapp opted to test the open market and caught on with the Orioles at the end of January.

What made the Red Sox leery about Rapp was his propensity to have control problems. Thursday night Rapp showed just what they were talking about.

When he found the strike zone, Rapp looked good, getting five strikeouts the first three innings. But too often, he was behind in the count and when he wasn't walking batters he was throwing pitches that became base hits.

A single followed by two walks to start the first ended up in two runs and after loading the bases in the third Rapp issued a two-out walk to account for the Red Sox third run.

After three singles in the fourth put the Red Sox up 4-1, Rapp was pulled. In his first start since pitching into the eighth inning and giving up just three runs Saturday against the Yankees, Rapp left having given up four runs on seven hits and four walks in 3 and 1/3 innings.

"Pat just didn't have good stuff tonight," Hargrove said. "He was behind all the hitters."

The Orioles got Rapp off the hook in the bottom of the fourth as Cal Ripken lead off the inning with a homer to make it 4-2. Brady Anderson, whose solo blast in the first had tied the game at 1-1, evened the game again, this time with a ground-rule double that drove in two.

The hit was the 1,427th of Anderson's Oriole career, moving him ahead of Paul Blair for sixth in club history.

The Orioles chased Wakefield with two outs in the fourth but managed just two base runners off the Red Sox relievers.

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