BOSTON - Thank goodness for B.J. Surhoff. Thank goodness for a 40-year-old veteran who can still run down fly balls with the Green Monster behind him, bailing out a starting pitcher who had the bases loaded in the seventh, no one out and not a creature stirring in the bullpen.
"B.J. did a really good job. That could have been a real turning point in the game. Maybe I have to take him out to dinner," Sidney Ponson said after his 9-3 win over the Boston Red Sox was preserved and, better yet, in the books.
The Orioles strike again. Make that the depleted Orioles strike again, with Surhoff starting nightly with Luis Matos and Larry Bigbie on the disabled list. It's just a little more proof that the Orioles are as resilient as they are potent.
Against all odds, the Orioles pushed their American League East lead up another notch. Who'd have thought it would be this easy for an injury-laced roster that leaves the team little margin for error?
A depleted bench, with nothing but recent minor-league call-ups sitting there, unlikely to be used. An injury to another All-Star position player. A starter cruising until he hit a major pothole in the scary seventh.
"That's when my mechanics went haywire," Ponson said.
Good thing Ponson had that seven-run cushion to work with again.
The Orioles defied the odds of their current composition and ill health last night. They did it in all kinds of ways, one more surprising than the next.
It had been more than a month since Sammy Sosa's last homer as an Oriole. It had been 16 years since he last hit at Fenway Park, which is also the place where he just happened to hit his first major league home run.
Talk about coming full circle.
So what if Sosa tagged Roger Clemens back on June 21, 1989, and this time merely used a flattened-out delivery from Red Sox knuckleballer Tim Wakefield to again feel the power and the glory of the long ball.
"This is a very nice stadium. We just want to go out there and play our best baseball," said Sosa, who chose not to dwell on his past, only on his team's immediate situation.
Sosa's was the third homer in three innings off Wakefield, pushing the Orioles' lead to 5-0 and helping to knock Wakefield out after 5 2/3 innings.
Talk about strange situations. The list of reasons why the Orioles should have lost last night were long - almost as long as the faces of Red Sox fans who want John Olerud to start at first base instead of Kevin "Billy Buckner-esque" Millar.
For starters, Ponson was on the mound. The highest-paid and most-experienced Orioles pitcher had five wins going into the game, but he also had the fifth-highest ERA (5.66) in the American League.
If his team's offense wasn't so stout, Sir Sid wouldn't be joking so much with Baltimore writers about where he might be traded. Not that the Orioles are trying. Still, it's fun to speculate.
"Hey, where am I being traded to now?" Sir Sid always wants to know.
This week's suggestion: Orix Blue Wave.
Sir Sid's response: "Good. I like sake. Cold, hot, warm, whatever. I don't give a X@&#!"
Oddly, for a veteran pitcher whose failure to achieve ace status should embarrass him and make him angry that Erik Bedard is now the Orioles' ace - so says Sir Sid - Ponson's "I don't give a X@%#!" attitude has yet to seriously bite him in the backside.
Ah, the luck of the Orioles. Ponson recorded win No. 6 for the season.
His job appeared to have had risen in difficulty because of the pre-game news that Brian Roberts would be scratched from the lineup.
The leading All-Star vote-getter among American League second basemen; the man who leads the league in batting average (.368) and who has generally been in the middle of everything good the Orioles have done offensively this season could not play.
Roberts woke up in the middle of the night in his Boston hotel room and found an ache in his right shoulder where no ache had been when he fell asleep.
"I didn't get a good feeling from the trainer, not the feeling I wanted to have," manager Lee Mazzilli said.
Mazzilli inserted utilityman Chris Gomez at second base and into the No. 8 spot in the lineup. Gomez continued to make his value known, belting a double in his first at-bat. Gomez then scored on catcher Geronimo Gil's three-run homer.
The Orioles need big-hitting Javy Lopez back behind the plate as soon as possible, but what a boost it was to get such a boost from Gil.
Gil started last night instead of Sal Fasano, who was originally penciled into the lineup, only to have White Out swiped over his name sometime before it was posted. Maybe someone realized Gil had been 5-for-10 career against Wakefield. Make that 6-for-11, with gusto.
Or, maybe it was as simple as the Orioles needing Fasano behind the plate this afternoon to catch Hayden Penn, who will make his second major league start, this time against the defending World Series champs.
"I'm kind of curious myself to see him go out there," Mazzilli said about Penn.
Hey, one thing at a time, Maz.
Last night's curiously big win was curious enough to last a while.