Except for being host to the best two-day party in baseball history, the Orioles don't deserve much credit this year. But there is this: They've stared elimination in the face two days in a row now, and both times, the Orioles have responded.
Mark Smith's two-out bloop single in the bottom of the seventh inning scored Harold Baines, giving the Orioles a 6-5 victory over Boston before 40,282 at Oriole Park. The magic number for the Orioles' inevitable elimination holds at one.
Orioles starter Kevin Brown held a 5-2 lead going into the seventh, when Mo Vaughn hit a bases-empty homer -- his second home run of the game -- and Mike Greenwell banged a two-run shot off reliever Mark Lee, tying the score.
But with two outs in the bottom of the inning, pinch-hitter Baines launched a long, high drive that bounced on the warning track in center field and over the fence. Smith then looped a ball to short center, and Baines, running with two outs, scored easily from second.
"I thought we played well tonight," said Orioles manager Phil Regan. "Harold Baines did a great job for us in a pinch-hitting role."
Smith said: "We're hanging in there."
Jesse Orosco pitched the last 1 2/3 innings for his second save, and the Orioles won their second game in two nights against the Red Sox -- who had beaten the Orioles in eight of 10 games going into last night. It stretched Boston's losing streak to a season-high five games.
Despite this, the Red Sox are going to win the AL East -- assuming they don't suffer a collapse of 1978 proportions -- and what is remarkable about this is how all year, they've pieced together just enough pitching to be successful.
Roger Clemens went down, and the Red Sox discovered Erik Hanson. Arm problems sidelined Aaron Sele, and Tim Wakefield emerged from baseball's scrapheap. Ken Ryan was a late-inning bust, and Stan Belinda stepped up. Along the way, Zane Smith, Vaughn Eshelman and others have contributed. For three or four games, fingers in the dike.
Rheal Cormier, too, has been a revelation, after being acquired from St. Louis along with right fielder Mark Whiten for third baseman Scott Cooper. He's given them some solid relief outings, a few decent starts, including eight innings in an 11-1 win over the Orioles Aug. 10.
But like some of the others, Cormier is fading, and last night, the Orioles took advantage of his imperfections.
They filled the bases in the bottom of the second inning, two walks sandwiched around a Chris Hoiles single. Smith blooped a single to center, scoring one run, and Bret Barberie flied to right to score a second run. An infield single by Curtis Goodwin, and the Orioles led 3-0.
Vaughn hit the first of his two homers in the third, a two-run shot to dead center. But in the bottom of that inning, Cormier again helped the Orioles fill the bases, walking Jeff Manto after singles by Bobby Bonilla and Hoiles. Zane Smith relieved Cormier, and after striking out Mark Smith, he walked Barberie, forcing home the Orioles' fourth run.
Brady Anderson doubled to start the fourth, moved to third on a single by Cal Ripken and scored on a one-out single by Rafael Palmeiro. The Orioles had five runs to that point, but considering the ineffectiveness of Cormier and Zane Smith, and all of the Orioles' opportunities -- eight hits and four walks -- five runs wasn't a whole lot of production.
One out into the seventh, Vaughn hit a bases-empty homer to left. Jose Canseco, who struck out looking on his two previous at-bats, reached out and poked a single through the right side of the infield.
Orioles starter Kevin Brown departed, Regan deciding it was better to have left-hander Mark Lee face left-handed-hitting Mike Greenwell. It took all of one pitch for Lee and Greenwell to prove Regan wrong.
The one pitch was an inside fastball, which Greenwell hammered over the scoreboard in right field, tying the score at 5-all.