The two-part message that Orioles manager Phil Regan planned to deliver to his players yesterday was simple: Keep your heads up, and the time has come to step up.
The meeting didn't happen, but the team stepped up last night, en masse, in the wake of injuries to pitchers Kevin Brown and Ben McDonald. Mike Mussina, who must carry the burden for a couple of weeks, at least, threw 6 2/3 solid innings and beat the Boston Red Sox, 7-5, before 46,306 at Camden Yards.
"It's nice to see Mike Mussina pitch well and win a ball game. He's a guy we're going to need a lot more these next couple weeks.
"After what happened to us last night, it was a big win for us."
First baseman Rafael Palmeiro had two hits and scored three runs. Jeff Manto lashed a two-run double. Kevin Bass hit a two-run single. Brady Anderson hit his first homer since June 8. Armando Benitez, sent down little more than two weeks ago after giving up a grand slam and plunking the next hitter, pitched a scoreless inning in his first outing since being recalled from Triple-A Rochester.
The Red Sox, down 7-2 after eight, rallied in the top of the ninth against Doug Jones, scoring three runs with five singles. But with runners at first and second and two out, left-hander Mark Lee relieved Jones and struck out Mike Greenwell on three pitches for his first save.
"It was a total team effort," said Palmeiro. "Everybody played well tonight, and that's why we won."
"We can't press," said Bass. "We know what we have to do. Each guy has his job."
That kind of group effort will be required if the Orioles are to remain in contention in the American League East, so long as Brown and McDonald are down. The Red Sox have won this way this year, following injuries to Jose Canseco, Roger Clemens and Aaron Sele. The Yankees and Blue Jays haven't filled in the holes created by injuries, and have fallen far behind Boston.
Regan wanted to tell his players this before the game, and at least for one night, his words translated.
BThe Red Sox took a 1-0 lead in the first inning, after Lee Tinsley led off with a double and subsequently scored on an infield grounder. But the Orioles answered immediately.
Anderson singled off Boston starter Zane Smith, and after Jeffrey Hammonds flied to left, Palmeiro doubled off the scoreboard in right field. Cal Ripken flied out to center to score Anderson. The inning seemed over when Manto rolled a grounder toward short, but Terry Shumpert -- trained as a second baseman -- mishandled the roller, and Palmeiro scored. Orioles 2, Red Sox 1.
Tinsley homered to open the third inning, a tremendous wallop to left-center for a left-handed hitter. For the 11th straight start, Mussina had allowed at least one homer. But he pitched shutout ball until leaving with two outs in the seventh inning. Mussina is 6-1 at Camden Yards this year, with a 3.18 ERA, compared to 0-4 and 8.17 on the road.
In the meantime, the Orioles pounded on Smith, aided by Boston's defense. Hammonds singled with one out in the third, and Palmeiro hit a chopper back in front of home. Smith rushed in, spun and threw to second.
A poor choice. The throw was slightly off line, and Hammonds may have beaten the play anyway. As it was Hammonds was safe at second, and Palmeiro beat the relay to first base.
Ripken hit a grounder to second baseman Luis Alicea, who tried starting a double play by throwing to Shumpert. But Palmeiro, on the move with the pitch, beat the throw to second, and Boston had to settle for one out, when Shumpert relayed to first to get Ripken.
Next to hit: Manto, who has been in a mild slump of late, his once enormous batting average shrinking to .274 prior to last night's game. He hammered a line drive to center. Tinsley had a shot at making the catch, but to do so would've required a perfect and direct route to the spot where the ball descended. This he did not do.
Manto wound up on second with a double, and both runners scored to give the Orioles a 4-2 lead.
They got another big two-out hit in the fifth. Palmeiro and Ripken singled, and both runners advanced when Manto's grounder ricocheted from Smith to Shumpert, who threw Manto out at first.
Designated hitter Kevin Bass -- who began the game with a .339 lifetime average in 56 lifetime at-bats against Smith -- singled, driving home both Palmeiro and Ripken. Chris Hoiles singled, driving Smith to the showers, but reliever Frankie Rodriguez got the last out of the inning on a fielder's choice grounder.
Anderson padded the lead in the bottom of the sixth. With one out, Rodriguez slipped two quick strikes past Anderson, and then threw him a belt-high fastball over the middle of the plate, and the Orioles' left fielder turned on it, mashing a homer over the scoreboard in right.
The Red Sox threatened mildly in the seventh, with a walk and a hit against Mussina with two outs. But Jesse Orosco relieved and curtailed the rally by getting slugger Mo Vaughn to ground out to second.
Opponent: Boston Red Sox
Site: Oriole Park at Camden Yards
TV/Radio: HTS/WBAL (1090 AM)
Starters: Red Sox's Tim Wakefield (4-1, 1.59) vs. Orioles' Scott Klingenbeck (2-1, 5.63)
Tickets: 2,000 remain