- The Washington Times - Friday, September 24, 2004

BOSTON — David Ortiz’s fly ball headed toward the right-field fence and for an instant, it appeared the Boston Red Sox would rally for another improbable win.

Not this time.

David Newhan caught Ortiz’s bid for three-run homer at the edge of the warning track for the final out, and Baltimore hung on for a 9-7 win last night that dropped Boston 4-1/2 games behind the New York Yankees going into this weekend’s Fenway Park showdown.

“I was looking at it and I’m like, ‘Come on, baby. Do your thing,’” Ortiz said. “In some ballparks, that ball’s in the upper deck. No doubt about it: Yankee Stadium — we’d be celebrating.”

The Red Sox won Tuesday on Mark Bellhorn’s single in the ninth, then made it two in a row on Orlando Cabrera’s 12th-inning homer on Wednesday night. They seemed primed for a third consecutive comeback yesterday when Manny Ramirez hit a two-run single off Ryan to make it 9-7 after Boston loaded the bases in the ninth.

But Ortiz hit a 370-foot drive that David Newhan caught for the final out about 10 feet from the fence. After starting up the first-base line in what appeared to be a home-run trot, Ortiz snapped his head back in disappointment.

“If you saw the whole series, you knew the ninth wasn’t going to be easy,” Orioles reliever B.J. Ryan said. “Ortiz is a big, strong guy, but I thought I got it in on him. It’s a pretty good poke to right, but I could have done without seeing it.”

The Red Sox fell farther behind the Yankees, who beat Tampa Bay 7-3. Boston leads the AL wild-card race by six games over Anaheim and Texas.

“We would love to win the division,” outfielder Johnny Damon said. “We’ll see where we sit come this weekend.”

Baltimore had broken a 5-all tie in the eighth on pinch-hitter Jose Leon’s bases-loaded single.

Miguel Tejada hit a three-run homer for the Orioles, Todd Williams (2-0) pitched a perfect seventh and the Baltimore bullpen pitched four scoreless innings, retiring 11 straight before Ramirez brought Boston within two runs.

Ramiro Mendoza (1-1) got just one out — thanks to a barehanded play by second baseman Pokey Reese — and allowed two runs.

Mendoza gave up one-out singles to B.J. Surhoff and Javy Lopez before Terry Adams came on and threw a wild pitch that moved the runners to second and third. Larry Bigbie hit it back to the mound to get Surhoff in a rundown that left Baltimore with runners on second and third with two outs.

Geronimo Gil was intentionally walked to load the bases, and Leon singled to right field to make it 7-5. Bigbie and Gil added RBI singles off Byung-Hyun Kim in the ninth to make it 9-5.

With their 78th consecutive sellout this season, and their 142nd in a row overall, the Red Sox set a season record of 2,732,844. Last year, they sold 2,724,162 tickets at Fenway Park, the oldest and smallest ballpark in the majors.

The crowd saw Boston rally from deficits of 1-0, 2-1 and 5-2 before failing to close the final gap.

The Red Sox had hoped to get close enough to the Yankees to take the division lead this weekend. But with nine games left, they need a sweep to have any chance of winning the East and are more realistically looking at opening the playoffs on the road as the wild-card team.

Lowe, who lasted just one inning-plus in Saturday’s 14-4 loss at New York, may have been pitching to determine his place in the playoff rotation. He allowed four earned runs, nine hits and a walk, striking out four before leaving after five with the score tied 5-all.

Lowe failed for the third consecutive time to get his 15th win of the season. But he avoided taking the loss when Boston scored three in the fifth on a bases-loaded walk to Ortiz and a two-run double by Kevin Millar.

Notes — Brian Roberts led off the game with his 48th double of the season, breaking Cal Ripken Jr.’s franchise record from 1983. … Boston outfielder/DH Ellis Burks was activated from the 60-day disabled list and singled as a pinch hitter in the ninth. He has played in 10 games this season in his second stint with the Red Sox. To make room for Burks on the 40-man roster, Boston released left-hander Phil Seibel, who will undergo reconstructive surgery on his left elbow in the offseason. … Varitek stole his career-high ninth base of the season in the second inning.

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