- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 28, 2000


BOSTON With the worst road team in baseball away from home and facing the game's best bullpen, the Baltimore Orioles' chances of breaking their nine-game losing streak seemed bleak.
Perhaps the ghost of Baltimore native Babe Ruth gave the Olde Towne team one more dig for selling him off those many years ago, helping the Orioles to a 6-3 win over the Boston Red Sox in 10 innings before 32,813 at Fenway Park.
No matter, the struggling Orioles will take help spiritual or otherwise if it will help them get a win.
With the Orioles trailing 1-0 heading into the ninth inning, the lead seemed safe considering Boston's relievers had an ERA of 3.67, the lowest in baseball and the Orioles were 10-31 on the road, including losing their last seven.
Derek Lowe gave up consecutive one-out hits to Delino DeShields and Albert Belle to tie the game in the ninth inning. In the 10th, he surrendered a leadoff single to pinch-hitter Harold Baines and a two-run homer to catcher Charles Johnson.
Johnson's 16th homer of the season three shy of his career high traveled 415 feet and caught the netting above the fabled Green Monster.
"It was big because he's one of the best closers in the game and we really needed a win," said Johnson, who originally showed bunt then worked the count to 3-2 before going deep. "I'm trying to stay more patient and I was able to get a pitch I could drive."
An error by shortstop Nomar Garciaparra kept the inning alive and B.J. Surhoff, who earlier had extended his hitting streak to 20 games, drove in two more runs and Cal Ripken one as the Orioles sent 10 men to the plate.
Ripken's hit was likely his last action for the next few weeks. The pain in his chronic back was so intense that he needed a pinch-runner pitcher Scott Erickson, no less and he is expected to have an MRI on his back today, either in Baltimore or in Cleveland, where he had back surgery in September.
Orioles manager Mike Hargrove said it is "80 to 90 percent" certain that Ripken will go on the 15-day disabled list.
Massachusetts native Mike Trombley, who hadn't pitched in 10 days because of strep throat, set the stage for the rally and earned the win by entering the game with two outs in the ninth and the bases loaded and getting Jose Offerman to ground out.
"It was good to get back out there and pitch," Trombley said. "Grover [Hargrove] said he wanted to put me in a no-pressure situation for my first time back but he said it likely wasn't going to happen… . The most important pitch I made was the first one because I got ahead. He's a good hitter. If I don't get him, it's over."
After Alan Mills served up a two-run homer to Garciaparra in the 10th, and with the tying run on deck with two outs, Buddy Groom came on to get the save.
That preserved the Orioles' first victory in eight games of their current 10-game road trip while preventing Baltimore (31-43) from sliding into sole possession of last place in the American League East. Boston fell to 37-35.
Before the Orioles' bats came alive, it appeared they were going to squander a strong performance from a starter for the third straight game. On Saturday, Pat Rapp gave up two runs against Seattle but his teammates managed just one. Sunday, Sidney Ponson also kept the Mariners to two runs but the Orioles only managed to score two and the bullpen failed to hold a lead.
Last night it was Mike Mussina, who yet again pitched well enough for the victory but remained at just five wins. In his previous start, Mussina was shelled, giving up eight runs to Oakland in just 4 2/3 innings, breaking a spell of strong pitching in which he had surrendered just 14 runs the prior 49 1/3 innings.
Last night, Mussina reverted to that form, striking out a season-high 10 while walking just one and giving up five hits in seven innings. However, two of those hits were all that was needed to give the Red Sox the lead.
In the seventh, Scott Hatteberg led off with a single that just got under the glove of diving shortstop Mike Bordick. Hatteberg was bunted to second and with two outs Offerman drove him in with a single to left field.
A lack of run support is nothing new for Mussina this season; the Orioles scored only 27 runs for him in his first 10 starts and 53 in 16 starts before last night.
"It doesn't effect me as much as it did in April and May. [But] just because it happens a lot doesn't make it any smoother," Mussina said. "It's mentally draining to pitch that way."
Much of the Orioles' struggles last night could be linked to Red Sox starter Pete Schourek, who held them four hits and two runs in seven innings. One of the hits was a seventh inning single to B.J. Surhoff that extended his hitting streak to 20 games, one shy of his career high.
Schourek could have been pitching for the Orioles. He was released by Pittsburgh on April 1, a period when Orioles vice president for baseball operations Syd Thrift said he was watching the waiver wire for pitching help but saw no one who would improve the Orioles' rotation.
The Red Sox quickly claimed Schourek and while the graduate of Marshall High School in Falls Church won't be confused for teammate Pedro Martinez, his 3.96 ERA after last night is lower than any Oriole, including Mussina, and would have given Baltimore's rotation a badly needed left-handed presence.

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