The Orioles made three defensive mistakes in the ninth inning in losing to the Red Sox, 6-5. Baltimore must win today to salvage a split of the four-game series and keep themselves from falling 10 games out of first place.
"We just had a bad inning," said Orioles manager Phil Regan. "It was just a tough game."
Orioles reliever Jesse Orosco walked Jose Canseco leading off the ninth, with the score tied at 4. Then the clouds opened, and rain delayed the game for 51 minutes. When the game resumed, Orosco and first baseman Rafael Palmeiro tricked Canseco, executing a play they had discussed in the clubhouse during the delay. When the Orioles played the Red Sox in May, the Orioles' coaching staff had noticed that Red Sox runners typically start breaking for the next base on the first move by the pitcher.
Red Sox first base coach Frank White leaned over and said to Canseco, "Don't get picked off."
Palmeiro feinted in toward the plate, as if he was moving to cover the possibility of the bunt, but then broke back to the base to take a throw from Orosco. Canseco was far off the base, dead. All that was needed was a tag.
"I kind of got pumped up," Orosco said. "I was psyched. I said, 'Yes!' I ran over to back up first and we got all switched up."
Palmeiro threw to Cal Ripken, who chased Canseco back toward first and threw to Manny Alexander.
Canseco reversed himself again and ran toward second -- which nobody was covering. Palmeiro, after throwing the ball, had peeled off toward the pitcher's mound instead of going to second.
"You can't print the first words that came out of my mouth," Canseco said. "I was just hoping I could bump into somebody with the ball or outrun somebody to the base, and that's what happened."
Said Palmeiro: "We didn't execute it. We didn't discuss it. Game over."
Effectively over, anyway. More details, more mistakes.
Mike Greenwell popped toward third, and Jeff Manto backed up, until he was called off by Ripken, who dropped the ball as he tried catching it below his waist. Ripken picked up the ball, frustrated, and slammed it into his mitt in anger.
"The ball was hit off the end of the bat," Ripken said. "It was one of those tough ones to judge. I thought Jeff was in trouble. He was backpedaling. I think he heard me call for it late. At the last minute, I took my eye off it and missed the ball."
Tim Naehring flied to center, and Canseco moved to third. Then Troy O'Leary barely chopped a dying roller 40 or 45 feet up the third-base line. Manto rushed in and had little chance to catch Canseco at home but tried anyway, and threw the ball over the head of catcher Greg Zaun.
Greenwell advanced to third on the play, and scored on a fly ball. In one inning, two errors and a botched rundown. And two runs. Decisive, as it turned out.
Manto homered leading off the bottom of the ninth, but one wasn't enough.
Ripken said he wants to wait until the Orioles have had time to think about what went wrong, and then talk about the misplays. "Before the game starts tomorrow," he said, "we'll discuss it, and then we'll go from there."
This after the Red Sox and Orioles swapped the lead three times in the first eight innings.
Orioles starter Scott Klingenbeck will never be confused with Roger Clemens or Hideo Nomo. If Clemens has a Porsche fastball, well, then Klingenbeck throws an Escort. If Nomo pitches in Cadillac style, then Klingenbeck is something along the lines of a station wagon.
But he plugged along, fighting through Boston rallies. He allowed nine hits and three walks in six innings, but only two runs.
As Klingenbeck frustrated the Red Sox with his ability to escape, Wakefield merely frustrated the Orioles. They didn't hit a ball out of the infield until Manto singled with two outs in the fourth, flailing and waving at the dancers thrown by Wakefield.
However, they scored two runs in the third, the killer blow of the inning being a 15-foot roller.
Alexander walked leading off the third, bringing Curtis Goodwin to the plate.
Before the game, Goodwin had said that when in the minors, he had countered knuckleballers with the bunt. This is what he did on Wakefield's first pitch, pushing a bunt toward toward third, six or seven feet off the line. Perfect.
But Wakefield is a converted infielder, confident in his ability to make plays. He rushed in, grabbed the ball, spun and threw the ball . . . right past first base, against the rolled-up tarp against the stands. By the time the Red Sox had retrieved the ball, Alexander had scored and Goodwin stood at third. Brady Anderson struck out before, with the Red Sox infield back, Kevin Bass hit a grounder to second, and Goodwin scored the tying run.
Mark Lee took over for Klingenbeck in the top of the seventh. Canseco doubled with one out, and moved to third on Greenwell's flyout to center. Naehring fisted a single into left, scoring Canseco and giving the Red Sox a 3-2 lead.
The Orioles came back in the bottom half of the inning, with two outs and pinch runner Zaun -- making his major-league debut -- at third. In Anderson's first two at-bats, he looked utterly baffled by the knuckler, grounding out weakly to second and striking out. But in his third at-bat, he lined to short.
Wakefield threw him a flutterball for a strike, then another, and Anderson lifted it over the right-field wall, his second homer in two days and his ninth of the year. The Orioles led 4-3.
But Boston quickly tied the score in the top of the eighth against reliever Gene Harris. Mike Macfarlane singled, and was replaced by pinch runner Terry Shumpert. Lee Tinsley flied to left for the second out. Valentin hit a grounder toward third, on the right side of Manto. He couldn't glove the ball, however, and he didn't knock it down. The ball bounced off Manto and into short left, and Shumpert turned the corner and scored.
"If you're in the big leagues, you make that play," Manto said.
They're in the big leagues. And on this night, they didn't make the plays.
Opponent: Boston Red Sox
Site: Oriole Park at Camden Yards
TV/Radio: HTS/WBAL (1090 AM)
Starters: Red Sox's Vaughn Eshelman (3-1, 5.20) vs. Orioles' Arthur Rhodes (1-2, 8.76)
Tickets: 2,500 remain