Leave it to baseball's biggest surprise, the Boston Red Sox, to eliminate one of the game's biggest disappointments, the Orioles. And it figures that in this season of should've-beens for the Orioles, a pitcher who came out of nowhere put the dagger in the heart of a club that went nowhere.
Knuckleballer Tim Wakefield shut out the Orioles for 8 1/3 innings as the Red Sox won, 2-0, before 41,536 at Camden Yards, officially eliminating the Orioles from the AL East race. Boston center fielder Dwayne Hosey had four hits, including a leadoff homer, increasing his career hit total from three to seven.
"Wakefield was tough," Orioles manager Phil Regan said. "We didn't have too many chances against him to score runs."
Boston didn't either, as Orioles rookie Jimmy Haynes, starting the game that Ben McDonald thought he was going to pitch, threw seven strong innings in his major-league debut.
"I didn't expect him to do this well," said Regan. "You think he's going to be a little bit nervous. He didn't show it."
When Haynes is throwing comfortably, his delivery is sedate as he draws his arm behind him, the ball held back and out of sight, completely relaxed. But the moment that his front leg descends to the ground, his arm action homeward is explosive. Put together, his delivery has the effect of a built-in change of speed. Slow, slow, FAST, and his fastball is right on the hitter.
In the first inning, however, Haynes' delivery was out of sync, rushing the whole way through, falling off toward first base after releasing the ball. On his second pitch of the game, Haynes threw a curveball that did not bite, and Hosey whacked it into the right-field stands, his first major-league home run.
John Valentin reached base when third baseman Bobby Bonilla fielded his grounder and threw wide of first. Haynes walked Mo Vaughn, and Orioles pitching coach Mike Flanagan trotted to the mound to talk to Haynes -- probably to tell him to relax.
Haynes, at this juncture, could've been boom or bust. Jose Canseco digging in to hit, runners on first and second, nobody out.
The rookie responded. Two quick strikes on Canseco, and a good 2-2 fastball on the outer half of the plate that Canseco dribbled weakly to first, for the first out (both runners advancing). Mike Greenwell was intentionally walked to set up the double play, and Tim Naehring obliged the Orioles with a ground ball that Cal Ripken turned into a twin killing.
He made a fan of Regan with his early effort. "He showed great poise after that home run," Regan said, "loading the bases and getting the double play."
Haynes had a little two-out trouble in the second inning, a single by Luis Alicea and a double by Hosey. But Haynes got lucky, when Hosey's double bounced over the center-field fence and Alicea -- who would've scored easily -- was returned to third base. Valentin flied out to left, ending the inning.
The rookie then settled in and set down the Red Sox, facing 16 hitters over the next five innings, one over the minimum.
Problem was, Wakefield was doing the same thing to the Orioles. Three up and three down the first two innings, the first hit a single by Bret Barberie in the third inning, no runner advancing past first base in the first seven innings.
Wakefield did the same thing to the Orioles in Boston last month, holding the Orioles hitless until the seventh inning.
In his last start for Triple-A Rochester last Saturday, Haynes pitched eight innings. So with the rookie working on three days' rest after such a long start, Regan hoped to get five innings out of Haynes, maybe six. His plan early Monday, before Ben McDonald dissented, was to pitch Haynes five innings and McDonald four.
But Haynes gave him seven innings, throwing only 95 pitches, an average of about 13 pitches an inning. His final line over those seven innings: three hits, one run -- the leadoff homer by Hosey -- and three walks and four strikeouts. Or, in other words, the type of start the Orioles could've used back in August.
Regan went to his bullpen in the eighth, and immediately the Red Sox scored a run. Facing left-hander Mark Lee, Hosey -- that guy again -- hit a roller down the third base line and into left for a double. Lee struck out Valentin; more to the point, Valentin struck himself out, trying to drop a bunt with two strikes.
Lee then attempted to pitch inside to Vaughn, and grazed a pitch off the first baseman's massive torso. Regan called for right-hander Joe Borowski to pitch to Canseco, working on a 14-game hitting streak.
Make that 15 games. Canseco lined a 1-1 pitch to short center, which Curtis Goodwin charged and slid for and short-hopped. Goodwin held up his glove, in the hope that second base umpire John Shulock might've blinked or made a mistake, but no luck. Hosey, who didn't wait to make sure the ball dropped, scored easily. Greenwell and Naehring flied out to end the inning.
But the way Wakefield was dominating, the extra run probably meant more to the Red Sox as inflicted psychological damage than as scoring insurance.