- The Washington Times - Monday, August 20, 2001


BOSTON Former Baltimore Orioles right-hander Mike Trombley used to joke that the only time he and his fellow middle relievers make it on "SportsCenter" is when they're giving up a home run. Thus a good day for a relief pitcher, like an umpire, is one in which they are never even noticed.

The 33,145 at Fenway Park yesterday who witnessed the Orioles' 13-7 come-from-behind win over the Boston Red Sox may not remember the names John Wasdin, John Bale, Buddy Groom and Willis Roberts, but they probably left the ballpark cursing the Baltimore bullpen in general, not to mention Jeff Conine, who had a career-high five hits.

And even if they couldn't recall the names of anyone wearing an Orioles uniform, they certainly walked out cursing the beleaguered Boston bullpen that could not hold a lead yesterday, cost the team a golden opportunity to pick up a game on the AL East-leading Yankees and probably received far too much airtime on ESPN last night.

Pressed into early service when starter Calvin Maduro could not make it to the fourth inning, the quartet of Orioles relievers held Boston in check for six standout innings. That bought time for the Baltimore offense, which rallied from five runs down after two innings their biggest comeback of the year to produce a season-high 13 runs and 19 hits while taking two of three games from the reeling Red Sox.

"You just try to go out and keep that team from scoring and keep your team in the ballgame," said Wasdin, who pitched three innings in relief of Maduro to earn his first major-league win since July 5, 2000, when he was with the Red Sox. "We didn't quit. We didn't back down. We fought tooth-and-nail to the very end."

Chief among the culprits was Conine, who went 5-for-6 (all singles) with three RBI and three runs scored. Only a groundout to third in the seventh inning kept the veteran outfielder from a truly historic afternoon.

After a disastrous second inning, in which Boston benefited from three borderline calls to score six runs off Maduro (four of them coming on the 14th grand slam of Manny Ramirez's career), the Orioles were on the verge of exploding. Mike Lansing got new life after home plate umpire Mark Barron ruled his foul-tip with two strikes wasn't caught cleanly by catcher Fernando Lunar. Lansing then narrowly beat out a routine grounder to shortstop Brian Roberts, allowing Troy O'Leary to score with the Red Sox's first run.

Two batters later, Lansing stole third base and was ruled safe by umpire Phil Cuzzi even though replays appeared to show Lansing oversliding the base. All of which extended the inning for Ramirez, who crushed a Maduro fastball over the Green Monster for a grand slam.

Perhaps the most bizarre moment, though, came in the top of the fifth, just as the Orioles were beginning to rally. With runners on second and third and two out, Cal Ripken roped a ball down the third-base line that was caught by a diving Shea Hillenbrand. But as the Boston third baseman fell to the ground, the ball squirted loose. Still, Cuzzi ruled that Hillenbrand had control long enough to record the out, much to the chagrin of manager Mike Hargrove, who came out to argue, and first base coach Eddie Murray, who was ultimately ejected from the game.

At a critical juncture in the game, one that easily could have ruined any chance of a Baltimore comeback, Tony Batista responded with a double that scored two runs and cut the Red Sox's lead to 6-5.

"That probably was the big turning point to the game," Hargrove said. "You can point to Wasdin coming in and doing what he did, and that certainly was a huge part that allowed us to get back in the game, but Tony's two-out hit I think was really a big psychological barrier for us to get over and for the Red Sox to have to deal with."

From that point on, seemingly everything the Orioles hit fell in for hits. Five straight batters had hits in the sixth off relievers Hipolito Pichardo and Rich Garces, and seven straight batters reached base during the four-run inning.

David Segui, who has been battling an ear infection and possible vertigo that leaves him dizzy much of the time he's on the field, punctuated the comeback with a 448-foot home run to center field that glanced off an extension of the famed Green Monster rarely reached by batters and only a few feet short of leaving the ballpark altogether.

"That was a bomb," Conine said. "I was hoping it would have gone over everything."

Three more runs in the ninth off Sun Woo Kim ensured Baltimore's biggest offensive output of the season, while three more shutout innings from Bale, Groom and Roberts (giving the Orioles' bullpen a 2.78 ERA since Roberts took over as closer) sealed the deal.

"It would have been easy down by five, we had some calls go against us to lay down and not be aggressive and lose the game," Conine said. "But we turned it to our favor, stayed aggressive and it worked. And our bullpen was outstanding."

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