A growing panic has spread across New England this month, as Red Sox Nation waits to see if the rival New York Yankees will trade for five-time Cy Young winner Randy Johnson.
Silly Boston fans.
For all the energy they've spent thinking about that lanky left-hander, their team had enough trouble last night dealing with a stocky Orioles right-hander named Dave Borkowski.
In another game that showed why baseball can be so unpredictable, Borkowski outpitched Curt Schilling, and Javy Lopez turned in his first multi-homer game of the season, as the Orioles defeated the Red Sox, 4-1, before 45,780 at Camden Yards.
Borkowski, who spent three long years overcoming arm injuries to return to the big leagues this month for the first time since 2001, added a stunning start to his resume.
He retired the first 13 batters he faced and held the powerful Boston lineup to just three hits in seven scoreless innings. Manager Lee Mazzilli pulled Borkowski after he gave up a leadoff single to Kevin Millar in the eighth, and the Orioles' portion of the bipartisan crowd gave him a standing ovation.
"Oh, what a job he did," said Mazzilli, whose team improved to 7-4 against Boston. "Especially against this offense, it was pretty impressive."
The Red Sox scored 39 runs in their previous four games, taking two of three games from the Yankees and then clubbing the Orioles in a 12-5 victory Monday. After Tuesday's rainout, the teams finished the series last night with a pitching matchup that seemed seriously lopsided.
Schilling (12-5) gave up a leadoff single to Brian Roberts in the first but matched Borkowski zero for zero until the fifth.
Then, with one out, Lopez crushed a 78 mph curveball high into the left-field seats for a bases-empty home run. Mazzilli said right before the pitch, he leaned in to bench coach Sam Perlozzo and said, "[Lopez] hasn't hit one in a while."
Then they both watched as Lopez drilled the ball an estimated 410 feet down the line.
"Boom, next pitch," Mazzilli said. "It was good to see."
Borkowski kept cruising, and after the Orioles added a run in the sixth inning, Lopez hit a two-run homer off Schilling in the seventh for a 4-0 lead. That one carried over the center-field fence, into the Orioles' bullpen.
Lopez hit 43 home runs last year for the Atlanta Braves, but his power production has slipped considerably since he signed his three-year, $22.5 million contract with the Orioles. The two home runs gave him 14 for the season, and put him on pace to finish with 23.
A year ago, Lopez set a Braves single-season record with eight multi-home run games. This was his first since Aug. 14, 2003.
"I would have been happy if I hit just one home run," Lopez said. "But two is even better."
The Orioles scored just two runs in Borkowski's previous two starts, as he suffered losses to Tampa Bay and Boston.
This time, they got to Schilling for four runs on seven hits in his seven innings.
But the big story was Borkowski (2-2). He emerged on the scene for the Orioles on July 5, when he carried a shutout bid into the ninth and settled for an 8-2 victory over Tampa Bay.
It was enough for the Orioles to keep him around, but it started to look like an aberration as he allowed four runs in each of his past two starts. Borkowski said he watched the Boston hitters dismantle the Yankees' pitchers last weekend, but he figured he could have success if he could keep the ball down in the strike zone.
Sure enough, the Red Sox didn't have a runner until Nomar Garciaparra singled with one out in the fifth.
"Who goes out there and expects to no-hit the Red Sox with the lineup they've got?" Borkowski said. "I just wanted to go out there and try to get my team a win."
"He was awesome," Schilling said. "I was going to have to outpitch him, and it didn't happen."
Borkowski turned over a 4-0 lead to B.J. Ryan, who breezed through the eighth, prompting Mazzilli to send him back for the ninth instead of summoning closer Jorge Julio.
Ryan came one strike from completing the team's fifth shutout victory of the season. But with two outs and two strikes in the ninth, David Ortiz lifted his 27th home run over the center-field wall. It was the first home run Ryan has given up against a left-handed hitter since Cliff Floyd connected off him on Sept. 22, 2002.
Opponent: New York Yankees
Site: Yankee Stadium
TV/Radio: Comcast SportsNet/WBAL (1090 AM)
Starters: Orioles' Sidney Ponson (5-12, 5.93) vs. Yankees' Jose Contreras (8-4, 5.36)