BOSTON - As the Orioles near the end of the season, they have an expanded roster and 12 rookies tripping over each other this weekend inside the tiny confines of the visiting clubhouse at Fenway Park.
Most of them arrived yesterday to find Orioles pitcher Pat Hentgen already in uniform, sitting at his locker, with that perpetual look of determination covering his face.
The Orioles know there are intangible benefits to having Hentgen back on the roster after he missed 16 months recovering from major elbow surgery. But Hentgen has bigger goals than just being here again. He wants to win, and that looked difficult for him again last night.
Manny Ramirez hit two home runs off Hentgen, who struggled through his 4 2/3 innings, as the Boston Red Sox defeated the Orioles, 6-4.
In his second start since coming off the disabled list, Hentgen (0-2) allowed six runs on 10 hits, walking four and striking out two. His fastball topped out at 86 mph, but he had a hard time commanding his pitches and his ERA grew to 9.00.
"This is a period you have to go through coming back from an injury like that," Orioles manager Mike Hargrove said. "Pat is a battler. He competes. He probably competes as well as anybody I've ever seen. Tonight, he just came up a little bit short."
Derek Lowe (20-7) became the third pitcher in major-league history to have both a 40-save season and a 20-win season on his resume, joining Dennis Eckersley and John Smoltz. Lowe held the Orioles to two runs on five hits over seven innings and left with a 6-2 lead.
After squandering three big scoring chances, the Orioles rallied in the ninth and brought the tying run to the plate against Red Sox closer Ugueth Urbina. But Urbina struck out pinch hitter Luis Lopez and Mike Bordick to earn his 35th save.
The Orioles fell to 2-19 in their past 21 games. In the season's final two weeks, this club is looking for something positive to remind it of the season's first five months. Nothing would make this team happier than seeing Hentgen succeed.
The club holds a $6 million option on Hentgen's contract, and even though it is not likely to pick that up, it could pay the $600,000 buyout and then renegotiate with him as a free agent.
"You pull for anybody on your ballclub, but Pat's awfully special," Hargrove said. "In the short time he was active last year, he made such a difference in our pitching staff and the attitude of the ballclub."
Hargrove rattled off a list of the Orioles' young pitchers, from Sidney Ponson to Rodrigo Lopez, and talked about how much they can learn just from watching Hentgen go about his business.
"We had a 5 o'clock game today, and Pat was in uniform at 2:15," Hargrove said.
"But that's nothing new; that's the way he is. And stuff like that really, really, really rubs off on young pitchers when they see how it's done when it's done the right way."
Hentgen understands his role, but he would appreciate better results. The Red Sox loaded the bases three times against him last night.
They took a 2-0 lead in the second inning and still had three runners aboard with no outs, but Hentgen got a double-play ball and kept the damage to three runs.
"Some curveballs were better this time through, but for the most part, command was poor, location was even worse," Hentgen said, comparing this start with his first one against the Anaheim Angels. "You know, it's the major leagues; you make bad pitches, they're going to hammer them."
Boston loaded the bases again in the third inning, but Hentgen struck out Jason Varitek with a 73-mph changeup. He used two changeups to retire Trot Nixon for the first out in the fourth inning, but Nixon tucked that at-bat away and delivered the knockout blow the next inning.
Ramirez hit his second home run, No. 31 of the season, with two outs, and then the Red Sox reloaded the bases. Hentgen fell behind Nixon 3-1, cursing himself midway through the at-bat. He threw two more changeups to Nixon, who hit the second one to right field for a two-run single and a 6-2 lead.
"Even when I got ahead of guys 0-2, I just couldn't make the pitch to put anybody away," Hentgen said. "Just didn't make good pitches. Had guys on pretty much every inning and just battling."
Opponent:Boston Red Sox
Site:Fenway Park, Boston
TV/Radio:Ch. 54/WBAL (1090 AM)
Starters:Orioles' Jason Johnson (4-13, 4.77) vs. Red Sox's John Burkett (11-7, 4.70)