Wednesday, June 11, 2008

O's go ahead early, then rally past Sox

BOSTON -- By no means did the Orioles make it look easy. In fact, the O's jumped out in front early, gave up five unanswered runs to a team that rarely loses at home and ultimately came from behind to win.

But victories like these rarely come with ease. The Orioles let a three-run lead disappear in the fifth inning, then crawled back from a two-run deficit in the seventh to beat the Red Sox, 10-6, on Tuesday night at Fenway Park.

It was Baltimore's first game of the season in Boston, and the O's came out victorious against a team that has only lost seven games at home all year. Much of the Orioles' success on the evening came from timely hits and a lock-down bullpen that allowed no runs in four innings.

"It's great, you know, it's great," said starter Daniel Cabrera, who lasted just five innings while allowing seven hits and six runs. "I didn't have my good stuff today. I battled for five innings, and we go out there and try to win the game no matter how it is. Winning the game, that's what's important."

Cabrera said it was his two-seam fastball that gave him trouble against the Red Sox. He said he left it hanging in the strike zone, and Boston's J.D. Drew and Manny Ramirez took advantage for back-to-back home runs in the fifth. The homers gave Boston a 6-4 lead, and it was Cabrera's final inning.

"They worked [Cabrera] to death and they made him throw his fastball up," manager Dave Trembley said. "But he hung in there. You know, he could've given up more runs if he had given in. And what I've been saying about him since Day 1 is the wheels won't come off the wagon. He'll find a way to compete no matter what the situation is."

That's when the Orioles' platoon of relievers came in to shut down the Red Sox's dangerous lineup. Dennis Sarfate, Jamie Walker, Chad Bradford, Jim Johnson and George Sherrill combined for one hit and three strikeouts to finish out the game.

Baltimore came back in the seventh, victimizing Boston reliever Hideki Okajima for the second time in eight days by scoring three runs. After Aubrey Huff's two-run single tied it, Kevin Millar sent a sacrifice fly to center field, scoring Melvin Mora from third and putting the O's up for good.

Huff was Baltimore's catalyst through much of the contest, making Boston's pitchers work during his at-bats and ultimately going 4-for-5 with two RBIs and a run scored. It's the 14th time in his career he's collected four hits in a game -- a career high -- and the second time this season.

As a team, Baltimore apparently has a way of earning runs off Okajima. On May 14, Jay Payton hit a grand slam on Okajima's second pitch of the outing that turned a 3-2 Boston lead into a 6-3 Orioles' advantage. Then on June 2, Okajima allowed a three-run double to Adam Jones, breaking an eighth-inning tie, and was saddled with the loss.

"You've got to wait him out," Trembley said. "You can't chase pitches off the plate. ... And when you get behind in the count, you've got to shorten your swing and use the other side of the diamond."

Earlier, Baltimore began the contest with powerful hitting.

The Orioles erupted for four runs off Red Sox starter Josh Beckett in the top of the second. Baltimore smashed three Beckett offerings off the Green Monster in left field -- all for doubles -- and put four runs on the board.

Millar started the damage with a ball that just missed going over the wall in left. After a Luke Scott walk and a Ramon Hernandez hit by pitch, Freddie Bynum doubled with the bases loaded to drive in two. Brian Roberts followed up with a double, scoring Hernandez and Bynum and opening up a 4-1 lead.

It wouldn't last. Cabrera put the leadoff batter on base in four of his five innings. He'd face at least six batters in three of those innings and found himself with the bases loaded in both the first and third innings.

But double plays became crucial to the Orioles' ability to escape potential jams.

"We showed poise," Trembley said. "You've got to show poise when you come in here and you play these guys. The game can get away from you in a hurry if you don't."

Though the early lead wouldn't last, the O's found themselves harboring a 7-6 lead heading into the ninth. They tacked on three more, changing the one-run game into a four-run advanntage. Huff said the late run support helped make sure the Red Sox's potent lineup would have to string together a long rally.

"The best thing we did was tack on three more runs in the ninth, because I've seen those guys come back with a two-run walk-off," Huff said. "You never know with that offense."


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