Red Sox 7, Orioles 5, 1st Game; Red Sox 7, Orioles 5, 2nd Game
BALTIMORE (AP)—It’s difficult to rest your starters and build momentum for the playoffs, yet the Boston Red Sox have managed to do just that.
Using two lineups littered with backups, the Red Sox continued their charge into the postseason Saturday by sweeping a doubleheader from the Baltimore Orioles by identical 7-5 scores.
In the opener, Bronson Arroyo threw three shutout innings in his final tuneup before the playoffs, and Johnny Damon drove in three runs. Doug Mientkiewicz hit a tiebreaking two-run triple in the seventh inning of the nightcap to help the Red Sox complete the sweep.
Boston, which long ago clinched the AL wild-card slot, dug deep into the roster and won twice anyway. Manny Ramirez did not play in either game, David Ortiz and Kevin Millar sat out the opener, and Damon and Bill Mueller were among those who spent the nightcap on the bench.
“If we’d lost and we’d have been sloppy, I would have told you the game didn’t mean anything,” first-year manager Terry Francona said. “I’m still glad with what we’re doing. I’m really pleased.”
He should be. The Red Sox have won seven of eight, and are assured of going 11-1-2 in their final 14 series of the regular season.
Boston (98-63) moved 35 games over .500 for the first time since finishing the 1978 season 99-64—a mark they can match with a victory in Sunday’s finale.
“Regardless of what that number ends up being, when it all is said and done it’s not going to matter,” Francona said. “How we play next week matters. But when you show up, and you show up to win, I think that really helps. We’re playing everybody and we’re winning.”
In the first game, the Red Sox scored six runs in the second inning against Daniel Cabrera before making an out and led 7-0 in the third.
Orlando Cabrera hit a three-run shot off Sidney Ponson to bring Boston to 5-4 in the sixth, and after Mark Bellhorn tied it with a seventh-inning RBI single off Jason Grimsley (5-7), Mientkiewicz tripled into the right-field corner off Buddy Groom to put the Red Sox for good.
“We played hard, and that’s all you can do,” Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli said. “In the second game, we gave the lead up but had two shots to tie the game. We just came up a little short.”
In the opener, Arroyo was lifted after throwing 45 pitches and with Boston up 7-0. He has been tabbed by Francona to start either Game 3 or 4 in Boston’s opening-round playoff series against Anaheim or Minnesota.
“I feel good. I’ve been throwing the ball good, I feel healthy, I feel strong and rested,” the right-hander said.
Arroyo retired nine of 10 batters, the lone exception a double by Melvin Mora in the first inning.
“I thought Bronson was terrific,” Francona said. “We didn’t want to let him stay out there past 40 or 50 pitches, and he was right smack in the middle. I know the competitiveness in him; he wanted to stay out there for a while, but this was the right thing to do.”
Even if it meant giving up an easy win.
“It’s hard getting pulled, especially when it’s 7-0,” Arroyo said.
Lopez, B.J. Surhoff and Tejada homered for the Orioles.
Cabrera (12-8) allowed six runs, five hits and three walks in 1 1-3 innings — his shortest start since making his debut on May 13.
“He was all over the place. He just had no rhythm,” Mazzilli said, acknowledging that the rookie might be tired after throwing 174 innings this season.
The season series is tied 9-9 entering Sunday’s finale. … Red Sox DH Ellis Burks started the opener and became the 200th major leaguer to play in 2,000 games. … Boston is 42-17 since Aug. 1. … Tejada’s homer tied the Orioles’ season record for shortstops, set in 1991 by Cal Ripken.