- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 19, 2001


BOSTON Maybe it's the unfamiliarity. Maybe it's the adrenaline rushing through the veins of their young opponents. Maybe it's just the Baltimore Orioles' general lack of offensive talent.
Whatever the reason, the most frightening sight on the pitcher's mound from the Orioles' standpoint isn't a Cy Young Award winner, a staff ace or a wily veteran. No, the surest sign of an impending Baltimore loss this season is an opposing pitcher making his first major league start.
Cleveland's C.C. Sabathia beat the Orioles under these conditions. So did Texas' Justin Duchscherer and Toronto's Brandon Lyon. To that list you can now add Casey Fossum, a 23-year-old left-hander who did not surrender a run in his first career start yesterday while pitching the Boston Red Sox to a 5-1 victory before 31,199 at Fenway Park.
In four games against novice pitchers this year, the Orioles are 0-4 and have accounted for all of 16 hits in 24!= innings. Is it a coincidence, or is there something more to it?
"I think it's coincidence, but you have unfamiliarity, too," said Baltimore second baseman Jerry Hairston, who went 0-for-3 against Fossum. "We really don't know what he throws. There's no real scouting reports, nothing to gauge from. I think pitchers definitely have the advantage when they make their debut."
Fossum, who had made six relief appearances for the Red Sox since his recall from Class AA Trenton on July 27 (including one scoreless inning against the Orioles a week earlier), didn't pick up the win in his first start because he didn't last the requisite five innings. Still, 4? innings of three-hit ball was enough for Boston on this day, with three relievers combining to close out the Orioles on just one more hit.
Aside from two hits by Brook Fordyce and a single by Melvin Mora, Baltimore could not make a dent in the former All-Big 12 pitcher from Texas A&M.;
"He kept the ball down, kept it out of the middle of the plate, really pitched well," Baltimore manager Mike Hargrove said. "And when we did hit the ball hard, it was right at somebody. But we didn't it hard very often."
Aside from the four players who got one at-bat against Fossum last week, the only Oriole in yesterday's lineup who had seen him pitch before was shortstop Brian Roberts, a teammate on the 1997 U.S. national team. Roberts went 0-for-4.
"For the most part, he pitches the same way now as he did then," Roberts said. "He's not afraid to challenge you, but he also knows how to use his other stuff when he needs to."
Despite their struggles at the plate, the Orioles were in the game for six innings thanks to starter Jason Johnson, who allowed one run on three hits in his first five innings.
The right-hander lost it in the sixth after walking Trot Nixon and giving up singles to Manny Ramirez and Troy O'Leary. Johnson caught a couple of breaks on a pair of groundouts to third base. The second, a nubber by Shea Hillenbrand, was given up for a foul ball until it caught the lip of the grass and bounced back into fair territory, allowing Tony Batista to make an easy throw to first for the second out.
One out away from escaping the jam, Johnson (10-8) committed what he termed his one and only mistake of the game a high-and-inside fastball to Mike Lansing that promptly was sent screaming over the Green Monster for a three-run homer.
"I was trying to go down and away and missed my spot," Johnson said. "If I would have hit my spot, it would have been a ground ball. But you've got to learn from it."
Johnson's teammates, meanwhile, spent the rest of the evening trying in vain to find any kind of offensive spark. Right-hander Rich Garces (5-1) came in for Fossum and pitched 1!= scoreless innings. Derek Lowe gave up a run in the seventh on a walk, a single and a forceout but struck out the side in the eighth. And new Red Sox closer Ugueth Urbina retired the side in the ninth, dropping Baltimore back to 19 games under .500 and evening up the season series between the two teams at 5-5 entering this afternoon's finale.

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