September is usually the month when scoreboard-watching becomes popular, but when a team in your division never seems to lose -- i.e., the Boston Red Sox -- then it's never too early to take a peek at those out-of-town scores.
Orioles manager Phil Regan was scoreboard-watching last night. were first baseman Rafael Palmeiro, and pitcher Jamie Moyer. The Orioles started the evening nine games out, but when Boston lost big to California and the Orioles crushed Seattle, they gained ground in the standings for the first time since May 19.
The night after Randy Johnson struck out 12 Orioles, they scored 12 runs, winning 12-6, on 15 hits.
The Orioles hit four homers. Brady Anderson, Manny Alexander and Jeffrey Hammonds each hit a two-run blast, and Palmeiro had a bases-empty shot, his ninth homer of the year. It was the first career homer for Alexander, who seems to be making a bid to take the second-base job away from Bret Barberie.
Moyer, making just his second start of the year, completed seven innings and became the first Orioles lefty to win since Arthur Rhodes on April 30.
Remember April? That was when everybody figured that the Orioles and New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays would battle for the AL East title. That was before the Boston Garden leprechaun apparently took up residence in Fenway Park.
Regan said: "I think we can get back in this race. I'm not one of those people who thinks Boston is going to run away with it."
But the Red Sox have impressed.
"You can see if you watch the board during the game," Moyer said, "that if they're close, they always seem to find a way to come back and win. It was like that for us in 1993.
"That doesn't mean that no other team in this division can win. There is always an end to that [kind of winning streak]. . . . I'd rather have it late in the season."
Kevin Bass, who went 3-for-5, said: "They haven't gone through a drought. You know that sometime during the year, you're going to have a skid. It's just a matter of when."
And it's a matter of the Orioles keeping themselves in position to take advantage of such a skid.
Palmeiro led off the fifth inning with the score tied against Seattle left-hander Dave Fleming. With the count 2-2, Fleming threw a fastball high and away, and Palmeiro hit it high and away, into the left-field stands, and the Orioles led 3-2.
Then the Orioles piled it on -- the rest of it, though, coming with two outs. Cal Ripken walked. Chris Hoiles, the only member of the Orioles' starting lineup who went hitless, flied to right, and Jeffrey Hammonds forced Ripken at second. Two outs, and it looked as if the Orioles would settle for the one run.
But Hammonds stole second, significant in itself because it was the first major-league steal for Hammonds since his reconstructive knee surgery. Third baseman Jeff Manto, who has a habit of producing at least a hit a day, plopped a bloop single into center and Hammonds scored.
The Orioles were just getting started. Alexander pulled a ball off the left-field foul pole, a two-run shot. Goodwin rolled a single to center, Anderson walked, and Mariners manager Lou Piniella had seen enough of Fleming. He called for reliever Bob Wells.
But the hits just kept on coming. Bass smashed a double into the right-field corner. Goodwin and Anderson sprinted around the bases -- a double-dose of speed, something that the Orioles haven't had much of this year -- and Anderson beat the relay sliding across home.
Palmeiro, batting for the second time in the inning, walked, and Ripken drove a liner that bounced off the left-field foul line and skipped into the seats, a ground-rule double and an RBI.
The Orioles added a run in the sixth, Alexander walking, stealing second and scoring on a single by Goodwin. Two more runs scored in the seventh when Hammonds homered, Hoiles trotting home in front of him.
Moyer was relieved after seven innings, five hits allowed, four runs, two walks and two strikeouts.
The Mariners had jumped in front in the fourth inning on Edgar Martinez's two-run single.
But with one out in the bottom of the fourth, Alexander pushed a bunt past Fleming. He moved to second on a grounder, and then Anderson -- who had been a late addition to the Orioles' lineup, telling Regan in late afternoon that his back strain had improved -- hammered a two-run homer into the right-field stands.
In this series of offensive punches, Anderson's shot was the stunning jab. The knockout blows came the next inning.