BOSTON -- When Sid Fernandez is in street clothes, the difference in his looks between this year and last is startling. Losing pound after pound will do that.
When Fernandez is on the mound, he looks exactly the same as he did last year. Losing game after game will do that.
Boston blasted Fernandez for six runs in 3 1/3 innings last night and beat the Orioles, 6-2, despite playing a horrendous defensive game.
Red Sox first baseman MoVaughn hit his second homer in two nights, and shortstop John Valentin coaxed three walks and scored twice. Orioles left fielder Brady Anderson extended his hitting streak to 11 games with a single in the first inning.
The Orioles are now four games out of first and sliding, Fernandez's ineffectiveness pushing them down another notch in the standings. There have been times this season when the Orioles could rightly claim they've been cruelly victimized by cheap hits, bouncers and bloopers.
Last night was not one of those times. The Red Sox were dropping bombs all over Fenway Park, liners against and over the Green Monster.
"I thought Sid had good stuff," said Orioles manager Phil Regan. "He gave up a couple of hits, a couple of walks, didn't hold runners and they got a few runs."
The root of Fernandez's problems, the left-hander said, is that he has been pitching too deeply into counts. "I've got to start throwing strike one on the first pitch," he said, "instead of ball one, ball two.
"Any time you go 2-0 to a major-league hitter, you're not going to get away with it. You might every once in a while, but not for long."
Boston's first run was a cheapie, Jose Canseco plopping a looper down the right-field line and Valentin scampering home from second base. After that -- rockets, even without Roger Clemens. Vaughn mashed an opposite-field homer in the third inning, a two-run shot that rippled the net over the Green Monster.
Red Sox catcher Bill Haselman ripped a single to start the fourth inning. Boston ran aggressively against Fernandez all night, challenging the left-hander's slow delivery to the plate. Haselman broke for second and was in trouble when Fernandez threw to first. But shortstop Cal Ripken dropped Rafael Palmeiro's high throw. Haselman was safe on the Orioles' first error in 48 innings.
Third baseman Tim Naehring bounced a double against the wall in left-center, and Haselman rambled home. A running, falling catch by Sherman Obando in right field on a short fly by Luis Alicea saved a run. A reprieve.
Sort of. Lee Tinsley slayed the Green Monster, and Fernandez, with a two-run shot into the net.
Fernandez was finished, but his affects are lasting, to this point in the season: He's pitched 11 innings, allowed 15 hits, nine walks and 10 runs (nine earned). Of more concern to Regan, days away from reducing his pitching staff to 11 bodies, is that Fernandez has not pitched past the fifth inning.
"I'm not discouraged," said Fernandez. "I'm going to keep working, keep running, keep throwing on the side.
"I'm going to come around. This whole team is going to come around."
The whole team needs to come around, the erratic pitching and the sporadic offense. Fernandez left trailing by six runs, because the Orioles were exercising passive resistance at the plate against Red Sox starter Erik Hanson. Four hitters in the first, three up and down in the second, no runs in the third.
The Red Sox nearly gave away a run in the third. Anderson grounded to second with two outs, and Luis Alicea bent to pick up the grounder. But apparently, he didn't bend far enough; the roller went right past him, and into right-center field.
Anderson never stopped running hard, going for second, and when Tinsley's throw bounced past shortstop Valentin, Anderson hustled to third. But second baseman Bret Barberie struck out to end that inning.
The Orioles finally broke through in the fifth. Chris Hoiles singled, and Andy Van Slyke lined another single to right. Obando grounded to third, a potential double-play ball, but Naehring fumbled it and the bases were loaded, nobody out. The Orioles had a pulse.
Leo Gomez flied to center, driving home Hoiles, the first RBI of the season. Anderson was safe at first on a fielder's choice, and Barberie singled and Van Slyke scored.
The threat ended, though, when Rafael Palmeiro struck out.
The Orioles had runners at first and second and two outs in the seventh, but again, Palmeiro whiffed.
Regan generated some drama in the seventh inning, when he ordered pitcher Mike Oquist to intentionally walk Vaughn with two outs, first base open, and the hulking figure of Canseco in the on-deck circle.
Canseco played to the theater of the moment, digging in deliberately with his back foot and then facing Oquist. But Regan and Oquist won this battle, Canseco ending the inning with a lineout to right field.
On this night, Sid Fernandez lost the war.
Opponent: Boston Red Sox
Site: Fenway Park, Boston
TV/Radio: Ch. 13/WBAL (1090 AM)
Starters: Orioles' Kevin Brown (2-0, 4.73) vs. Red Sox's Aaron Sele (2-0, 3.00)