BALTIMORE — Two home runs, a timely pickoff play and a persistent rain provided the Baltimore Orioles with a much-needed victory.
Eli Marrero and Melvin Mora hit solo shots and Sammy Sosa added his first RBI since June 19, leading Baltimore past David Wells and the Boston Red Sox 3-1 last night in a game called after six innings because of rain.
Daniel Cabrera (7-7) pitched five rocky innings for the Orioles, whose third win in 12 games pulled them within three games of first-place Boston in the American League East.
“We needed a break,” Baltimore manager Lee Mazzilli said. “It’s good to get a win like this.”
A steady rain shower pelted the sellout crowd of 47,389 throughout much of the game, and umpires finally stopped play after the sixth inning. After a delay of an hour, the game was called.
“That’s the way it goes,” Boston manager Terry Francona said. “You can’t figure out a way to beat Mother Nature.”
Wells (6-5) gave up three runs and five hits in six innings. The left-hander was 4-0 in eight starts since May 18, and the Red Sox were 7-0 in his starts since May29, when Wells switched his uniform number from 3 to 16.
The Red Sox trailed 2-1 in the fifth when David Ortiz hit a two-out single and took third on a double by Trot Nixon. After Cabrera walked Kevin Millar to load the bases, the count went to 2-0 on John Olerud before Baltimore catcher Sal Fasano rifled a throw to shortstop Miguel Tejada, who applied the tag on Nixon for a pickoff that ended the threat.
“That was the game right there,” Mazzilli said. “Big play.”
Tejada signaled for the throw after he saw Nixon stray from second base on the first pitch to Olerud, and Fasano complied with a near-perfect toss.
“Cabrera left the ball up, a perfect one to throw on,” Fasano said. “I saw there was a lot of daylight between the runner and Miggy, so I knew I had a good chance.”
It would be Boston’s last real chance to take the lead.
“It goes without saying, you’d like to see that at-bat play out,” Francona said. “Trot knows that. He’ll be kicking himself more than anybody else.”
Sosa’s run-scoring single in the sixth made it 3-1 and ended a run of 47 at-bats without an RBI. The slumping slugger had only four hits in that span.
Earlier in the day, the Red Sox obtained Alex Cora from the Cleveland Indians for Ramon Vazquez. Cora played shortstop and went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts in place of injured leadoff hitter Johnny Damon, who has a sore shoulder.
Baltimore’s Rafael Palmeiro, who came in with a lifetime .178 batting average against Wells, went 0-for-3 to remain seven hits shy of becoming the fourth player in major league history with 3,000 hits and 500 home runs.
Cabrera allowed one run and three hits. He walked five, hit a batter and threw two wild pitches in an effort that was aided greatly by the pivotal pickoff.
“The right play at the right time, the play of the game,” Cabrera said.
Tim Byrdak worked the sixth. The left-hander has not allowed a run in three appearances since being recalled from Class AAA Ottawa on Saturday.
Cabrera walked three batters in the third inning and let a run come home on a wild pitch, but Marrero and Mora put Baltimore up 2-1 in the bottom half. Marrero led off with a drive into the left-field seats, and Mora’s 15th homer of the season was an opposite-field shot to right.
“I threw the ball down the middle and then got a ball up, and in this ballpark if you get the ball up, the ball’s going to fly,” Wells said. “But knowing that going in, you got to try to keep the ball down. I just made two bad pitches tonight, and it cost me the game.”
Note — The Orioles activated outfielder B.J. Surhoff from the 15-day disabled list and optioned outfielder David Newhan to Ottawa. Newhan hit .311 in 95 games with Baltimore last year after being plucked from the Texas Rangers’ farm system, but in 49 games this season is batting .198 with three homers and 12 RBI.
“I think a lot of that can be attributed to lack of consistent playing time,” Newhan said as he packed his bags. “For them to show this disloyalty to me, it’s depressing. I know it’s a cutthroat business, but at some point you’ve got to get a chance to go out there and play and perform and help the team win. I guess I will be doing that in Ottawa.”