- The Washington Times - Monday, August 4, 2003

BALTIMORE — A clap of thunder and a nearby bolt of lightning shook Camden Yards in the seventh inning yesterday afternoon. Mother Nature’s fury came too late to help the Baltimore Orioles, already trembling after the Boston Red Sox’s ground-launched strikes into the cheap seats.

The Red Sox lit up Orioles starter Rick Helling en route to a 7-5 win to salvage the finale of the three-game series. The Boston victory — which came after two lengthy rain delays — ended its four-game losing streak before 42,085. The Red Sox victory also snapped the Orioles’ eight-game home-winning streak, their longest since April 2000.

Helling (6-8) gave up a season-high four home runs — a two-run blast by Doug Mirabelli and solo shots by Johnny Damon, David Ortiz and Trot Nixon — in six innings. Ortiz later added a second homer for the Red Sox, who hit six overall to account for all of their runs.

“I couldn’t throw strikes with my breaking ball,” said Helling, who allowed five runs over six innings. “I need to be able to show them I can throw it for strikes. By the second or third inning, they realized I couldn’t throw it for a strike. They came up and just looked for heaters and took advantage of my mistakes.”

Meanwhile, the Orioles struggled to solve 37-year-old knuckleballer Tim Wakefield (9-5), who earned his 100th win with the Red Sox. Baltimore staged a ninth-inning rally to cut a four-run deficit to 7-5 on a run-scoring single by Brian Roberts off Byung-Hyun Kim with two outs, but Luis Matos flied out to right.

Boston maintained its half-game lead over Oakland for the American League wild card and closed within 3 games of New York in the AL East. The Red Sox lost three games on the Yankees during their skid.

“[The offense] has been a few days coming,” said Red Sox manager Grady Little, whose team scored a total of four runs in its losing streak.

The day’s most bizarre moment came after Baltimore cut the Red Sox’s four-run lead to 5-3 on Tony Batista’s RBI single in the sixth. The Orioles’ Robert Machado started the seventh by popping out to Nomar Garciaparra, who made the catch immediately before deafening thunder reverberated around the park. The All-Star shortstop shuddered before everyone sprinted off the field to start a 57-minute rain delay.

“I was ready to jump through the dugout, through the door — see you later,” Red Sox second baseman Todd Walker said. “It sounded like it was right over my head. It sounded like somebody was taking cannon shots at me.”

That stoppage and another 62-minute halt before the eighth inning couldn’t change Baltimore’s momentum.

“It’s tough to defend balls hit out of the park,” said Orioles manager Mike Hargrove, who was pleased by winning the series. “The Red Sox have that kind of lineup that can do that to you.”

Helling had given up only seven home runs in 54 innings at Camden Yards this season before surrendering the quartet yesterday.

Notes — Orioles utility man Melvin Mora didn’t start for a sixth straight game because of a sprained right wrist and is not expected to take batting practice for several more days. … Damian Moss will make his Baltimore debut today, starting against Minnesota.

The 26-year-old left-hander, who was acquired as part of the deal that sent Sidney Ponson to San Francisco, had a 9-7 record with a 4.70 ERA with the Giants.

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