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Unearned run pushes Red Sox past Orioles 5-4

9/24/2002

BALTIMORE (AP) -- The Boston Red Sox aren't done yet.

Johnny Damon scored the tiebreaking run on a wild pitch in the
15th inning, and the Red Sox beat the Baltimore Orioles 5-4 Monday
night to avoid elimination from the American League wild-card race.

One more Boston defeat or one Anaheim victory will bounce the Red Sox
from playoff contention, but Boston didn't look like a team going
through the motions in sweeping the four-game series.

''We're still alive,'' Red Sox manager Grady Little said. ''We
know it's a tough battle right at this point in time. But there's a
lot of pride in that room. They continue to play hard.''

With two outs in the 15th, Damon reached on a walk by Willis
Roberts (5-4). Damon then took third when Roberts threw wildly to
first on a pickoff attempt, and scored the unearned run when
Roberts uncorked a high fastball with a 1-1 count on Shea
Hillenbrand.

The Red Sox, who earlier blew one-run leads in the ninth and
14th innings, made their final run stand up.

''A lot of people are going to say we're out of it -- and we
might be,'' Damon said. ''But we might as well make a run out of
it. It's going to be a real late night, but I'm glad we pulled this
one off.''

Jay Gibbons hit two solo homers for the Orioles and Jeff Conine
connected in the 14th, but Baltimore lost its sixth in a row.

''We made a couple of errors that really cost us a chance to
win,'' Orioles manager Mike Hargrove said. ''But I'm really proud
of the way we battled tonight.''

Boston took a 4-3 lead in the 14th when pinch-runner Rickey
Henderson scored on a single by Tony Clark following an error by
Conine at first. But Conine made amends by leading off the bottom
half with a home run on the first pitch from Alan Embree (1-2).

''That's kind of bittersweet,'' Hargrove said. ''I'm sure Jeff
was thinking that if he didn't miss the ball, that would have been
a game-winner.''

Exactly.

''We should have been turning to walk home,'' Conine said of his
home run.

Embree avoided further damage, and Wayne Gomes got three outs
for his first save. He struck out Tony Batista with runners on
first and second to end it.

Hillenbrand homered for the Red Sox, who earned their third
four-game road sweep of the season. The other two came at Tampa
Bay.

The Orioles have lost 26 of 30. Baltimore has also endured
losing streaks of 10 and eight games during its monthlong skid.

''It would have been easy to lay down when we fell behind,''
Hargrove said, ''but the effort we put out is typical of the whole
season.''

Gibbons' second home run, off Boston closer Ugueth Urbina in the
bottom of the ninth, denied Red Sox starter Tim Wakefield his fifth
consecutive victory.

Wakefield allowed two runs, four hits and three walks in eight
innings. It was the first time in eight starts that the
knuckleballer gave up more than one run.

Urbina, who was 8-for-8 in save opportunities in September, had
his first blown save since Aug. 20.

Hillenbrand's 18th homer, a fifth-inning solo shot off rookie
John Stephens, put the Red Sox up 3-2. The lead stood up until
Gibbons hit his 28th homer in the ninth.

Boston's Manny Ramirez went 1-for-5, dropping his batting
average to .344 -- three points behind Mike Sweeney of Kansas City
in the duel for the AL batting title.

The Red Sox jumped to a 2-0 lead in the first on a run-scoring single
by Ramirez and a sacrifice fly by Cliff Floyd.

Baltimore tied it in the second on Gibbons' leadoff homer and a
run-scoring grounder by Mike Bordick.

Game notes
Floyd left in the 10th with a strained tendon in his right
ankle. ... Bordick played his 104th consecutive errorless game at
shortstop, extending his own major league record. He's made one
error this year, on April 10. ... Boston shortstop Nomar Garciaparra
committed his 25th error in the eighth. ... Baltimore has allowed
at least one first-inning run in five consecutive games. ... The Red
Sox won the season series 13-6 and improved to 24-7 at Camden Yards
since 1999.