BOSTON - The No. 19 jersey hung in one of the lockers inside the visitors clubhouse at Fenway Park, an indication that pitcher Scott Erickson wasn't going anywhere. At least not for another day.
The same may be true of the Orioles, but at least they showed some forward mobility last night.
As the trade winds continued to blow, the Orioles kept another tread from coming loose in a season that has unraveled the last two weeks. After fighting back in the ninth to tie the score, 1-1, the Orioles took a 6-3 victory over the Boston Red Sox when catcher Charles Johnson drilled a 10th-inning homer over the Green Monster to subdue a sellout crowd of 32,813.
Johnson's homer, his 16th, came after he failed to lay down a bunt against Derek Lowe that would have advanced pinch runner Mark Lewis, who entered after Harold Baines reached on an infield hit. He drove a 3-2 pitch into the netting above the wall, breaking a tie and ending the Orioles' losing streak at nine games. B. J. Surhoff added a two-run single and Jeff Conine scored on a fielder's choice grounder from Cal Ripken for a 6-1 lead, as the Orioles improved to 2-14 in road games decided in the last at-bat.
Ripken, trying to endure pain in his lower back and left leg, had to be removed after reaching first base. He limped to the dugout, and with only backup catcher Greg Myers left among the position players, Erickson had to run for him. Ripken's status for tonight is uncertain.
Locked in a scoreless duel through six innings, Mike Mussina allowed a two-out single to Jose Offerman in the seventh that delivered Scott Hatteberg with the game's first run. But Lowe coughed up the lead in the ninth, allowing a one-out double to Delino DeShields and a single into center field by Albert Belle.
Belle had been groping for his first RBI since June 19, when he homered and drove in three runs. He hasn't gone deep since then after hitting six homers in four games beginning June 14 and collecting 17 RBIs in a calendar week to tie the club record.
"I'm seeing the same swings," said manager Mike Hargrove. "Maybe Albert, at times, has been a little more impatient than he was during that streak, but on the whole I'm seeing the same approach in his at-bat. Albert's approach is fine right now."
Not much else has been fine for the Orioles (31-43), but Johnson's blast improved their road record to 11-31. They're now 1-4 vs. the Red Sox this season and 6-11 against the AL East. Four of those wins have come against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, who shared last place with them when the night began. They're also 13-16 in one-run games, tied with Texas for the most losses in the majors.
The Red Sox nearly ended the game in the ninth against Mike Timlin. Rookie Morgan Burkhart led off with a single and took second on a sacrifice bunt by Mike Stanley. Hatteberg was walked intentionally, and after pinch hitter Jason Varitek popped up, Hargrove called upon Chuck McElroy. Pinch hitter Darren Lewis walked on four pitches, bringing Mike Trombley into the game.
Pitching for the first time since June 17 because of strep throat, Trombley retired Jose Offerman on a grounder to first baseman Conine, setting up the Orioles' breakout 10th inning. Alan Mills gave up a two-run homer to Nomar Garciparra before Buddy Groom got the final out for his third save.
Mussina recorded a season-high 10 strikeouts in seven innings, the 21st time he's reached double figures in a non-playoff game. And Surhoff extended his hitting streak to 20 games with a seventh-inning single off Pete Schourek. He remains tied with Toronto's Carlos Delgado, who had two hits last night, for the league's longest streak this season.
It almost became window dressing. The Orioles couldn't touch Schourek, who blanked them on four hits over seven innings before turning over the game to the bullpen. And they couldn't reward Mussina, who allowed two runs or fewer for the seventh time in his last eight starts.
Hatteberg singled to center to open the seventh inning and was sacrificed to second. Curtis Pride struck out, but Offerman punched a single to right field, the ball dropping in front of Belle as he pulled up at the last instant. Offerman had been 3-for-29 lifetime against Mussina.
While intrigue built over whether he already had achieved 10-and-5 status, Erickson did some running and throwing in the outfield as rain continued to fall. He declined to comment on the trade rumors, saying only that he would be pitching tomorrow. Presumably, he meant with the Orioles.
For now, Surhoff remains the left fielder, Johnson the catcher, Mike Bordick the shortstop.
The Red Sox were a suitable cure for the Orioles. They were bruised from a three-game sweep by the Toronto Blue Jays over the weekend and sent out a pitcher who hadn't won in six weeks.
They also were missing their biggest run producer, center fielder Carl Everett, who had root canal surgery. With Trot Nixon going on the disabled list yesterday with a strained right hamstring, the Red Sox were reduced to using two infielders in the outfield. First baseman Brian Daubach moved to left, and second baseman Jeff Frye was stationed in right. Pride, called up from the minors on June 19 and the only player even remotely in the correct position, roamed center after making three starts in left.
Opponent: Boston Red Sox
Site: Fenway Park, Boston
TV/Radio: HTS/WBAL (1090 AM)
Starters: Orioles' Jason Johnson (0-6, 6.15) vs. Red Sox's Ramon Martinez (6-4, 5.75)