- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 21, 2004

BOSTON — Boston’s strong rotation is struggling at the wrong time and hurting the team’s slim chance of winning the AL East title.

Tim Wakefield became the third straight Red Sox starter to fail in a big game last night when the Baltimore Orioles won 9-6. Boston stayed 41/2 games behind the division-leading New York Yankees, who lost 6-3 to Toronto.

The loss followed setbacks of 11-1 and 14-4 in New York the previous two days.

“Starting this series, I know how important it was for me,” said Wakefield (11-10). “I’m disappointed that I let us down, very disappointed.”

Wakefield, 0-3 in his last four starts, got six of the first 10 outs on strikeouts, then lost his control and gave up five runs in the fourth. Four scored on B.J. Surhoff’s grand slam, and three more came in during the fifth when Baltimore made it 8-2.

“He looked so crisp, so confident,” Boston manager Terry Francona said. “It got away very quickly.”

Surhoff saw the difference in the fourth.

“Even the first pitch he threw me for a strike wasn’t one of his good ones,” Surhoff said.

Against the Yankees, Derek Lowe allowed five runs in the first Saturday, and Pedro Martinez allowed eight runs in five-plus innings Sunday. But Boston’s top five starters are 70-44.

But last night wasn’t the Red Sox’s night. They even allowed a run in the fifth when Melvin Mora, thinking the bases were loaded, trotted toward the plate when Rafael Palmeiro walked with runners at second and third.

After a long rundown, Mora scored when first baseman Kevin Millar, covering home, dropped Doug Mirabelli’s low throw for an error.

“I’m mad at myself. I need to concentrate a little more,” Mora said.

He did in the ninth when his 26th homer of the season gave Baltimore a 9-6 lead. Jorge Julio retired the Red Sox in order for his 22nd save in 25 opportunities.

The Red Sox stranded runners in scoring position in five of the last seven innings and fell to 4-8 against Baltimore.

“Luck? I don’t know,” Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli said of the dominance over a team Baltimore trails by 181/2 games.

The Red Sox suffered their first three-game losing streak since dropping four straight from June 29 to July 2.

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