Series: Game 1 of 3

Boston leads 1-0 (as of 4/4)

Game 1: Friday, April 4
Game 2: Saturday, April 5
Game 3: Sunday, April 6

Red Sox 8

(4-1, 4-1 away)

Orioles 7

(1-3, 1-3 home)

    7:05 PM ET, April 4, 2003

    Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Baltimore, Maryland 

    123456789 R H E
    BOS 005003000 8 11 0
    BAL 010000204 7 16 0

    W: J. Burkett (1-0)

    L: S. Ponson (0-1)

    Boston bullpen nearly blows another big lead

    BALTIMORE (AP) -- Thanks to Boston's shaky bullpen, a seemingly routine victory turned into a nerve-rattling experience.

    Nomar Garciaparra threw out Deivi Cruz at the plate for the final out, and the Red Sox hung on to beat the Baltimore Orioles 8-7 Friday night despite nearly blowing a seven-run lead.

    The Orioles rallied against Ramiro Mendoza in the ninth, cutting a five-run deficit to 8-6 before Geronimo Gil stepped to the plate with two outs and runners at the corners.

    Gil doubled off the left-field wall, but the relay from Manny Ramirez to shortstop Garciaparra to catcher Jason Varitek cut down Cruz on a very close play and preserved Boston's fourth consecutive victory.

    ''That was a little scary. It was crazy,'' said Boston's Todd Walker, who homered and drove in two runs. ''Everything they hit found holes. Luckily, we scored enough runs to win the game.''

    Just barely.

    ''I viewed the replay, and I might even question if he was out,'' said Orioles third base coach Tom Trebelhorn, whose decision to send Cruz was supported by manager Mike Hargrove.

    ''You've got to send Cruz,'' Hargrove said. ''For me, that's a good play. You don't know if you're going to get another hit.''

    Kevin Millar drove in two runs in a five-run third inning as the Red Sox built an 8-1 lead.

    But Boston's bullpen almost blew it -- the Orioles scored two runs off Steve Woodard in the seventh and four more in the ninth.

    Jeff Conine hit a sacrifice fly, and Tony Batista and Melvin Mora had run-scoring singles in the ninth. Cruz's single put runners at first and third for Gil.

    Using a closer-by-committee approach this season, the Red Sox blew three-run leads in the late innings against Tampa Bay in the first two games of the year. This game wasn't much different, except that Boston held on.

    ''We won the game and things didn't go perfectly. But they will,'' Red Sox manager Grady Little said.

    There's nothing wrong with the Boston offense, which has totaled 42 runs in five games this season. Every player in the starting lineup reached base either on a hit or a walk by the fourth inning.

    Boston starter John Burkett (1-0) allowed seven hits over five innings and left with a 5-1 lead.

    ''I figured I'd go in, take a shower, come out and shake some hands,'' Burkett said. ''I'll never take a shower again. I go in, come back and we're in trouble.''

    Batista had four hits and B.J. Surhoff went 3-for-5 for the Orioles, who have lost three in a row.

    Down 1-0, the Red Sox took control in the third when Sidney Ponson (0-1) gave up five hits, walked three batters and threw a wild pitch.

    After Walker singled in a run, Ponson walked David Ortiz with the bases loaded and gave up a two-run single to Millar. Shea Hillenbrand then hit a run-scoring single and Trot Nixon singled to load the bases and chase Ponson.

    Pat Hentgen, making his first relief appearance since April 1993, retired the side by getting Varitek to hit into a double play.

    But Varitek hit a two-run shot off Hentgen in the sixth, and two batters later Walker connected to make it 8-1. Ramirez also singled in the inning, extending his hitting streak over two seasons to 18 games.

    Baltimore scored twice in the seventh on a run-scoring double by Surhoff and a run-scoring groundout by Jay Gibbons.

    The Orioles went up 1-0 in the second on a two-out run-scoring single by Jerry Hairston, but Ponson gave the lead away in the next inning.

    Game notes

    After the game, the Orioles activated first baseman/desiginated hitter David Segui (thumb) from the 15-day disabled list and sent third baseman Jose Leon to Triple-A Ottawa. ... On a night in which temperatures dipped into the 40s, play was interrupted in the seventh when a fan clad only in boxer shorts ran across the field and posed in the batter's box before being tackled by a policeman. ... Boston has won six in a row in Baltimore over two years and is 25-7 at Camden Yards since the start of the 1999 season. ... Baltimore outfielder Marty Cordova missed his third consecutive game with pain in his lower back, the result of a herniated disc. He hopes to return Saturday. ... Boston's Jeremy Giambi, who started the season in a 1-for-15 slump, was rested. ... Surhoff ended an 0-for-10 drought to start the season with a leadoff single in the third.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press