- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 23, 2003

BOSTON — Byung-Hyun Kim has put his problems behind him — just in time for the playoffs.

The Red Sox reliever, who nearly lost his job as closer, saved his second consecutive game, pitching a perfect ninth inning last night to protect Boston’s 7-5 victory over the Baltimore Orioles.

Boston began the night with a 21/2-game lead over Seattle in the AL wild-card race. The victory gave the Red Sox hope that the bullpen problems that have been bothering them all season could be in the past.

“I kind of put myself in the frame of mind like we do on an airplane when we are getting ready to take off and they say, ‘Buckle your seat belt,’” Red Sox manager Grady Little said. “There might be a little turbulence. But tonight we had a safe landing, and that’s all we can ask.”

Manny Ramirez, Trot Nixon and David Ortiz homered for Boston, which stayed mathematically alive in the AL East when the Chicago White Sox beat the Yankees 6-3 in 10 innings. The next New York win or Red Sox loss will eliminate Boston.

“Nobody cares who wins the division,” Red Sox second baseman Todd Walker said. “All that matters is we make the playoffs.”

Jeff Suppan (3-3) allowed two runs and six hits in six innings in what could be a tryout for the postseason.

Suppan, acquired from Pittsburgh at the trading deadline, probably is competing with John Burkett for the fourth and final spot in Boston’s playoff rotation.

“I’m not concerned with that right now,” said Suppan, who has one more scheduled start, on Saturday. “Right now, I’m getting ready to face the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.”

Jason Johnson (10-9) gave up six runs — five earned — and seven hits before leaving four batters into the sixth. He has not won in eight starts since Aug.10.

“They have mashers up and down the lineup,” Orioles manager Mike Hargrove said. “If you make just a few mistakes, especially in this ballpark, you’re going to pay for it.”

Luis Matos and Jack Cust homered for the Orioles.

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