BOSTON -- The Orioles didn't leave anything to chance last night, not after a discouraging loss the evening before cost them an important game in the standings.
Get out the tape measure. The Orioles have hit more home runs (74) than any other AL team since the All-Star break, but they haven't hit many that were more impressive than the two tremendous shots that carried to the outer reaches of Fenway Park last night.
Harold Baines hit a 450-foot bomb to center field in the first inning that registered as the longest home run hit in Boston this year. Chris Hoiles brought the Orioles from behind in the seventh with a drive to left that cleared the screen atop the Green Monster in left field.
They are the same two players who homered to give the Orioles a four-run lead in the series opener, but this time the rest of the club pitched in to make sure that nothing stood between starter Fernando Valenzuela and his first victory since July 23.
The Orioles built on Hoiles' 26th home run of the year to score four times in the seventh and added five more in the eighth to win for the 12th time in their past 15 games.
Valenzuela went the distance and gave up three runs on eight hits to improve his record to 7-9, ending a winless streak that encompassed nine starts and lasted for nearly two months. He couldn't have picked a better time to crank up a big performance, since the Orioles still were reeling from a bullpen blowup the night before.
He allowed a run in the second inning and a two-run homer in the fifth on the way to his fifth complete game of the season. He outlasted Red Sox starter Danny Darwin to defeat the Red Sox for the first time in three 1993 decisions.
The odds appeared to be stacked heavily in the Orioles disfavor going into the game. Valenzuela was 0-2 against the Red Sox as well as being 0 for August and September. Darwin was 2-0 against the Orioles and had given up just one run in 14 innings against them. But Valenzuela got his club even with a clutch performance that had to provide a big lift at a pivotal point in the stretch run.
For the second night in a row, the Orioles muscled up in the early innings, this time with a tremendous first-inning home run by designated hitter Baines.
Brady Anderson led off the game with a ground-rule double down the right-field line and moved up on a sacrifice bunt by Mark McLemore, but was in danger of being stranded at third after Mike Devereaux went down swinging for the second out.
Baines didn't keep anyone in suspense. He jumped on the first pitch and drove it deep into the bleacher section behind center field. The ball traveled 449 feet, making it the longest home run hit at Fenway Park this year.
It was the 16th home run of the year and the second of the series for Baines, who continues to be the steady run producer the Orioles hoped he would be when they acquired him from the Oakland Athletics last winter. He also started the Orioles' offensive attack in Monday night's game with a home run in the second inning, but the club eventually blew a four-run lead and dropped a 6-4 decision.
The Orioles nearly added a third run in the first inning off Darwin, but the inning ended when Cal Ripken was tagged out in a home-plate collision that knocked former teammate Bob Melvin out of the game. Melvin suffered a gash over his right eyebrow that required stitches.
Darwin wasn't originally scheduled to start last night. He had been hindered by a infected fingernail on the middle finger of his pitching hand, so Boston manager Butch Hobson had left-hander Frank Viola penciled into the rotation for last night's game.
When it became apparent late Monday that Darwin might be able to pitch, Hobson moved Viola back into the upcoming four-game series against the New York Yankees and tentatively moved Darwin back into last night's start.
Still, his physical condition was uncertain enough last night that Orioles manager Johnny Oates had to have two lineups ready in case the Red Sox had to go with rookie left-hander Scott Taylor.
Darwin probably wished he had opted for another day off after the Baines moon launch, but he settled down and dueled with Valenzuela into the middle innings.
The Red Sox sliced the early lead in half with a run in the bottom of the second after Valenzuela gave up two hits and a walk to load the bases with one out. Tony Pena, who had entered the BTC game an inning earlier to replace Melvin, delivered the run with a sacrifice fly to center field.
Valenzuela tempted fate all night, working with runners on base in almost every inning, but he managed to keep things together until Mo Vaughn wrapped a low breaking ball around the right-field foul pole for a two-run home run to give the Red Sox the lead in the bottom of the fifth.
It has been a very strange year for Valenzuela, who was the American League Pitcher of the Month in July and hadn't won a game since. He had had two losses and seven no-decisions in the nine starts since he threw back-to-back six-hitters against
the Minnesota Twins July 18 and 23.
HOILES BOILS AGAIN
Orioles catcher Chris Hoiles is on a home run binge. Here's a look at his homer streaks:
Dates .. .. .. G .. .. HRs .. .. O's rec.
June 20-26 .. 6.. .. ..6 .. .. .. 6-0
Sept.4-14.. ..10 .. .. 6 .. .. .. 7-3