- The Washington Times - Friday, April 6, 2001


BALTIMORE An extra-inning thriller on Opening Day. A no-hitter two nights later. How much more drama could the Baltimore Orioles and Boston Red Sox provide in one series?

Apparently, plenty.

The Orioles were at it again last night, eking out a 2-1 victory over the Red Sox on Melvin Mora's bases-loaded walk with two out in the bottom of the ninth.

Suddenly, the team no one seemed to care about one week ago finds itself making headlines each night after winning two out of three from Boston in its season-opening series.

Three days after their 11-inning Opening Day win and one night after getting no-hit by Hideo Nomo, the Orioles received another outstanding pitching performance this time from Jason Johnson and survived some early blunders to push across the winning run with the game on the line.

Mora picked up the game-winning RBI, but Brady Anderson made it all possible by hustling to turn his ninth-inning leadoff single down the left-field line into a double. Anderson took third on Mike Bordick's groundout, prompting Boston manager Jimy Williams to have closer Derek Lowe intentionally walk Delino DeShields and David Segui to load the bases and create a forceout at every base.

Williams then created a stir by bringing center fielder Carl Everett in to play first base, giving the Red Sox five infielders and only two outfielders. Jeff Conine grounded hard to third baseman Shea Hillenbrand, who fired home for the second out, allowing the Red Sox to return to their standard infield alignment.

Mora, who had scored Baltimore's only run to that point, stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and two out. He almost won it on Lowe's 1-2 pitch, a hard inside fastball that narrowly missed clipping Mora's jersey. No matter after working the count full, he drew ball four high and inside from Lowe (0-2), who also took the Opening Day loss.

"When I was up there, I was thinking this was my chance to win the game," Mora said. "I didn't know how, but I was going to do it."

Johnson's stellar season debut kept Baltimore in the game in the first place. The 27-year-old right-hander, coming off a 1-10 season, had the best spring of any Orioles starter, earning himself the No. 3 spot in the rotation.

Johnson picked up right where he left off in Florida by tossing 8 1/3 innings and giving up one run on seven hits. His control, a problem all last season, was impeccable on this night, with 77 of 110 pitches thrown for strikes. He walked only one and struck out six, following Pat Hentgen and Sidney Ponson as the third Baltimore starter to pitch into the eighth inning.

"It's one of those things when you have to keep what you had going in spring training with you all season," said Johnson, who helped lower the Orioles' team ERA to a paltry 1.24. "I don't look at it as a new season. I look at it as an extension of spring training."

Known for having a somewhat fragile psyche, Johnson looked calm, collected and in control from the start.

"If he did feel any pressure, he sure didn't show it," catcher Brook Fordyce said.

For the second time in three games, a baserunning gaffe nearly cost Baltimore the win. Mora was called out on appeal Monday for failing to touch second base on a free trip to third. Last night Jerry Hairston was the culprit.

Standing on third with one out in the bottom of the sixth, Hairston attempted to tag up on DeShields' flyball to right field. Hairston beat Trot Nixon's throw to the plate and appeared to have given the Orioles a 2-1 lead.

But before pitching to the next batter, Red Sox reliever Rich Garces appealed to third, claiming Hairston left early. Umpire Eric Cooper agreed and called Hairston out, negating the run.

Hairston instantly came out of the dugout screaming and went after Cooper before he was eventually restrained by third-base coach Tom Trebelhorn while Hargrove pleaded his case. Two minutes later, the Oriole manager retreated to the dugout as a chorus of boos cascaded from the stands.

Hairston was running on Trebelhorn's call.

"You have to listen to the coach or you have no chance," manager Mike Hargrove said. "I disagreed with the call at third base."

Unable to make a dent into Red Sox starter Frank Castillo for four innings, the Orioles finally broke through in the fifth. Mora scorched a double down the left-field line, then scored on Cal Ripken's first hit of the season.

Boston evened up the game in the sixth when back-to-back singles by Jose Offerman and Everett, and a deep fly out to right by Manny Ramirez put runners on the corners with one out. Troy O'Leary hit a bouncer to Segui, who fired to the plate. Offerman's headfirst slide beat Fordyce's tag by a hair, and though Hargrove came out to question home plate umpire Brian Gorman about the call, the score remained tied at 1-1.

Baltimore left-hander Buddy Groom (1-0) picked up the win with a perfect 2/3 of an inning in relief of Johnson.

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