BALTIMORE (AP)—In years past, the Baltimore Orioles probably would have wilted against the Boston Red Sox after falling behind by three runs and watching Manny Ramirez make an incredible play in left field.
It didn’t happen in Wednesday’s 6-3 victory, and the Orioles insist it’s not going to happen anymore. Bring it on Red Sox and Yankees, or anyone else who thinks this is the same team that has endured 10 straight losing seasons.
“They’re not intimidated. They really don’t think they should take a back seat,” manager Dave Trembley said. “They think they can play with anybody.”
Jay Payton hit his fourth career grand slam to back a gritty pitching effort by Daniel Cabrera, and the Orioles rallied to complete a two-game sweep. It was the first time since July 2005 that Baltimore won two in a row over its AL East rivals.
“When you’re able to beat good teams, it does a little for your confidence,” Payton said. “We feel like we can compete with anybody.”
Solo homers by Jason Varitek and Mike Lowell, and a defensive gem by Ramirez — yes, Ramirez—weren’t enough to prevent the Red Sox from losing their fourth straight. It was the third consecutive game in which Boston blew a three-run lead.
“I’m not really concerned,” Varitek said. “We need to find a way to grind out a win.”
Ramirez, to put it kindly, is better known for his prowess at the plate. In the fourth inning, however, he made a difference with his glove.
With runners at first and second and one out, Kevin Millar hit a drive to left. Ramirez made an over-the-shoulder grab on the warning track, reached over the 7-foot wall to slap a Boston fan with a high-five, then turned and threw the ball to Dustin Pedroia. The relay from Pedroia to Kevin Youkilis doubled up Aubrey Huff to complete the 7-4-3 double play.
But Baltimore persevered.
“Ramirez makes a great catch and more times than not, that takes the wind out right of your sails and you say ‘OK, here we go again,”’ Trembley said. “You don’t see that with these guys. They come at you, and they’re going to keep coming at you.”
The Red Sox were undone by their bullpen, which spoiled a fine outing by starter Jon Lester. Javier Lopez, Craig Hansen and Hideki Okajima were all ineffective in a four-run seventh that doomed Boston to its sixth loss in eight games.
“We’ve got a good bullpen. You put your trust in them,” said Lester, who gave up two runs in six innings. “Nine out of 10 times they get the job done.”
The Orioles trailed 3-2 before going ahead in the seventh. With two outs, Freddie Bynum was credited with an infield hit when Pedroia couldn’t make a play on a grounder.
“I took a deep angle because it was going to go through,” Pedroia said. “I slid for it and had it in my glove, but my knee hit the glove and it came out.”
After Hansen (0-2) gave up a single to Guillermo Quiroz and walked Brian Roberts to load the bases, Payton hit the second pitch from Okajima into the left-field seats. The right-handed hitting Payton was surprised the Red Sox called upon a left-hander to pitch to him.
“It goes against the percentages. That’s probably the first time I’ve ever had a lefty brought in to face me, but a lefty got me out my first three at-bats so they were just playing the numbers,” Payton said. “He’s been throwing the ball great; he just left one over the middle.”
That provided Cabrera (4-1) with a rare win over the Red Sox. The right-hander gave up three runs and 10 hits in seven innings, striking out three and walking none. He yielded a hit in every inning but the seventh.
“Daniel did a great job of hanging in there for seven innings and giving us a chance to score a few runs,” Roberts said.
Cabrera came in 1-9 with a 7.84 ERA in 11 career starts against Boston. He had lost seven straight to the Red Sox since July 2005.
Aided by Baltimore’s fourth double play, George Sherrill got three outs for his 15th save.
Boston got a first-inning run when Jacoby Ellsbury singled, stole second and scored on a single by Pedroia. Varitek homered in the fifth, and Lowell connected in the sixth.
It wasn’t enough.
“This team is pretty resilient. We certainly don’t quit, that’s for sure,” Roberts said. “We’re going to play all 27 outs. If you can beat us for all 27, then we’ll tip our hats. But we’re going to grind out every at-bat.”
Lester extended his scoreless innings streak against Baltimore to 12 before the Orioles broke through in the sixth on a run-scoring groundout by Payton and an RBI single by Nick Markakis, who was batting .212 with runners in scoring position.
Boston went 4-6 on its 10-game road trip and dropped the last two under Brad Mills, who served as manager while Terry Francona attended the funeral of his mother-in-law. … Boston put pitcher Clay Buchholz on the 15-day disabled list and recalled outfielder Jonathan Van Every, who got a fifth-inning single in his major league debut.