- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 25, 2003

BOSTON — Any plans the Boston Red Sox had for a postgame celebration were put on ice during a disastrous first inning last night.

Needing a win to clinch their first playoff berth in four years, the Red Sox trailed by seven runs before coming to bat, and the Baltimore Orioles went on to a 7-3 victory.

“We felt like we were going to have a party here tonight [after Seattle’s loss to Anaheim reduced Boston’s magic number to one],” outfielder Johnny Damon said.

But the Orioles had fun as Tony Batista hit a grand slam and Pat Hentgen pitched six strong innings to delay for at least a day Boston’s clinching of a wild card berth.

“We want to play and play well and make them earn it if they’re going to clinch it,” Baltimore manager Mike Hargrove said. “Beyond that, we wanted to win the ballgame for ourselves.”

Especially after Tuesday night’s 6-5 loss in which Todd Walker’s three-run homer tied the game with two outs in the ninth and David Ortiz’s solo homer won it in the 10th.

“It’s a clean slate the next day,” Hargrove said.

Just as it was for the Red Sox.

“We don’t have too much hangover, not in an emotional win and loss,” Boston manager Grady Little said. “We just got off on the wrong foot there, and it didn’t get any better.”

Boston clinched at least a tie for the American League wild card earlier in the day when Seattle lost 4-0 at Anaheim. For the Red Sox to miss the playoffs, they would have to lose their final four games, and Seattle would have to sweep a three-game series against Oakland, then beat Boston in a tiebreaker playoff.

The Red Sox get another chance to clinch tonight when Derek Lowe faces Omar Daal in the finale of the four-game series with Baltimore.

“It’s exciting when it’s in front of you,” Boston catcher Jason Varitek said. “We have to concentrate on what we have to do, and that wasn’t the case today.”

Ortiz continued his slugging with two homers, giving him three homers in 10 pitches and 31 for the season.

Hentgen (7-8) allowed three runs and six hits. He was replaced by Hector Carrasco with two outs in the seventh after Ortiz’s second homer and Gabe Kapler’s RBI single.

Baltimore pounced on John Burkett (11-9) for seven hits and seven runs — six of them earned. He left after retiring just one batter, the shortest start of his 14 major league seasons.

Burkett said he wasn’t too excited, knowing Boston could clinch the wild card.

“I just threw a lot of pitches over the middle of the plate,” he said. “I just made a lot of mistakes and didn’t get away with any of them.”

Jerry Hairston, who had two doubles and a single in the first three innings, opened the first with a single. After Luis Matos struck out, singles by Larry Bigbie and Jay Gibbons loaded the bases.

Batista hit the first pitch into the left-field seats for his second grand slam of the season and seventh of his career.

Doubles by B.J. Surhoff and Jack Cust made it 5-0, and Cust took third on Deivi Cruz’s single. Brandon Lyon relieved, and Brook Fordyce hit into a forceout at second, but second baseman Walker’s throw to first went into a dugout as Cust scored. Hairston singled in Fordyce for a seven-run lead.

Lyon gave up five hits in 2⅔ scoreless innings before Bronson Arroyo pitched four perfect innings.

Notes — Bill Mueller broke an 0-for-13 slide with his single in the seventh. He went 1-for-4, dropping his AL-leading batting average to .324. Boston’s Manny Ramirez and Chicago’s Magglio Ordonez are at .323. … Nomar Garciaparra is in a 1-for-18 slump that dropped his batting average to .302. …

Singles by Walker in the eighth and Varitek in the ninth gave Boston a major league record 2,750 total bases. The previous record of 2,748 was set by Colorado in 2001. … Ortiz’s two RBI gave him 100 for the season, joining Ramirez and Garciaparra with at least 100. The last time the Red Sox had three players with 100 or more RBI was 1984 (Tony Armas, Dwight Evans and Jim Rice).

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