- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 7, 2002

BALTIMORE Melvin Mora felt the ball land in his glove. He felt his glove hit the top of the fence. And when his feet landed on the ground, the Baltimore Orioles left fielder could have sworn the ball was still in his possession.
The look on Mora's face when he realized Nomar Garciaparra's eighth-inning blast was in some fan's hands instead of his own said it all.
"I felt the ball in my glove," Mora said of Garciaparra's three-run homer that carried the Boston Red Sox to a 4-2 victory yesterday. "I don't know what happened after that."
On another cold and windy day at Camden Yards in which nothing was carrying to left field, the Red Sox defeated the Orioles by the slimmest of margins. Garciaparra's eighth-inning shot off Scott Erickson cleared the fence by inches, while three balls crushed by Orioles hitters came up short.
Such are the breaks when you're 1-4 and scoring runs as if it were the dead ball era. With two runs and four hits (three after the sixth inning) yesterday, Baltimore has three runs and 16 hits over its last four games all losses.
This despite receiving inspired pitching from everyone on the staff, particularly Erickson, who had allowed one run on four hits heading into the eighth inning yesterday.
"If you sit there and feel snakebit, all you do is start feeling sorry for yourself," said manager Mike Hargrove, whose team faces the unenviable task of trying to snap its losing streak against three-time Cy Young Award winner Pedro Martinez today. "That never works. It doesn't serve any purpose. You accept it as a part of the game."
Still, it was tough for the Orioles to accept Garciaparra's decisive blow off Erickson.
With the game tied 1-1 and Erickson and Frank Castillo in a pitchers' duel, the Red Sox put together a two-out uprising in the eighth to claim victory. Rickey Henderson, Boston's 43-year-old designated hitter who was making his first start of the year, got behind in the count 0-2 but drilled a slider from Erickson (1-1) into left field for a single.
"I had 0-2 on Rickey, and I should have gotten him out," Erickson said. "I had a feeling he was looking for a slider, but I still threw it and I made too good of a pitch, right down the middle."
With the all-time stolen bases leader on first and good contact hitter Johnny Damon at the plate, Red Sox manager Grady Little called for a hit-and-run, which Damon executed to perfection. Orioles second baseman Jerry Hairston broke to cover the bag just as Damon's grounder rolled through the right side of the infield. So there were runners on first and third, two out, and Garciaparra coming up.
Seconds later, Garciaparra was rounding the bases after clubbing a three-run homer, the second straight game in which Boston's All-Star shortstop cleared the park against the Orioles.
"I threw a ball right down the middle to Nomar, who is the last guy on that team you want to beat you," Erickson said. "I was mowing them down. I just basically choked."
The way the Orioles have been hitting the ball the past four days, Boston's 4-1 lead virtually assured victory. Despite its offensive woes (the team has a .162 average for the season, and seven of nine regulars are batting under .200), Baltimore might have won this game had the breeze coming in from the outfield been a bit softer.
The Orioles hit five drives that looked like sure home runs off the bat. Only Jay Gibbons (in the third) and Mike Bordick (in the eighth) actually reached the seats, though, and both of those came with no one on base.
Mora twice took aim at the same left-field fence he crashed into chasing down Garciaparra's homer, but his drives in the second and seventh innings made it only to the warning track.
"I thought I had a chance for two home runs," said Mora, whose .308 average and four RBI lead the club. "I think I hit it better than [Garciaparra] did. But that's part of the game."
Jeff Conine, stuck in a 1-for-17 slump heading into the ninth inning, crushed a ball off Red Sox closer Ugueth Urbina so hard he began his home-run trot immediately, only to turn on the jets and sprint for second when he realized the ball merely had bounced off the wall.
"I thought the hardest ball hit today was the one Conine hit in the ninth inning," Hargrove said. "But you obviously had to hit it at the right angle to get the ball to carry in this wind."
One night after Derek Lowe carried a no-hitter into the eighth inning, Castillo was just as effective. Boston's No.5 starter departed after six, having allowed only Gibbons' home run and one walk. Left-hander Casey Fossum (1-0) pitched the seventh and eighth to earn the victory, and Urbina rebounded from the Conine double to retire Tony Batista and notch his second save.
Notes
Calvin Maduro will be activated off the disabled list today in time to start for the Orioles against Martinez. The right-hander had been sidelined with a strained right forearm.
Vice president of baseball operations Syd Thrift said yesterday the club had still not decided who would be cut, but the most likely candidate would appear to be fifth outfielder Luis Garcia, who won't see much playing time now that the Orioles have acquired Gary Matthews Jr. from the New York Mets.
Baltimore apparently will continue to carry three catchers until it is forced to make a move. Third-stringer Fernando Lunar is out of minor league options, and the Orioles have yet to receive a compelling trade offer for him.


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