<
>

O's clinch 7th straight losing season

BALTIMORE (AP) -- After going more than a month without a win,
Tim Wakefield turned in a performance good enough to earn him a
postseason start.

With Bronson Arroyo and Wakefield in the mix, that means Derek
Lowe will be the odd man out when Boston opens the playoffs next
week as the AL wild-card team.

Wakefield allowed two runs in six innings for his first victory
since August, and Johnny Damon and David Ortiz homered to power the
Red Sox past the Baltimore Orioles 8-3 on Friday night.

Before the game, Boston first-year manager Terry Francona said
Curt Schilling would start the playoff opener and Pedro Martinez
would pitch in Game 2. Afterward, he announced that Arroyo and
Wakefield would start the next two games, not necessarily in that
order.

That means Lowe (14-12, 5.43 ERA in 32 starts) must work in
relief.

"We've talked to Derek about going to the bullpen," Francona
said.

Wakefield (12-10) was 0-3 in five starts since Aug. 29, but the
knuckleballer dispatched a Baltimore team that had won seven of
eight. The right-hander walked two and struck out five in improving
to 6-2 lifetime at Camden Yards.

"It's nice to get a win," Wakefield said. "It's nice to pitch
better than I have."

After watching Wakefield mow down the Orioles, Francona settled
upon his rotation for the opening playoff series.

"Once Wake was through the game healthy, we knew what we were
going to do," the manager said.

Boston trailed 2-1 before rallying against Baltimore's bullpen
for two runs in the seventh inning and five in the ninth. The
victory enabled the Red Sox to reach 96 wins for the first time
since 1978.

"We showed up today. We wanted to win today," Francona said.
"I was a young kid in '78."

The Orioles (77-82), meanwhile, clinched a seventh straight
losing season.

"We fell short, but next year when teams play the Orioles, they
know they'll have their hands full," manager Lee Mazzilli said.

Baltimore starter Rodrigo Lopez (14-9) gave up three runs on
five hits in 6 2-3 innings. He came in 3-0 with a 1.13 ERA against
the Red Sox this season, but another fine effort against Boston
went sour in the seventh.

The Red Sox trailed 2-1 when Orlando Cabrera drew a one-out walk
and took third on a single by Bill Mueller. Lopez was replaced by
Jason Grimsley, who promptly yielded an RBI single to Doug
Mirabelli. Two batters later, Mark Bellhorn singled in the go-ahead
run.

That sent Lopez to his first loss in eight starts since Aug. 18.
He was 4-0 during that span.

"He deserved a better fate," Mazzilli said.

Damon and Gabe Kapler hit RBI singles off Jorge Julio in the
ninth before Ortiz hit his 41st homer -- a three-run drive -- off
John Parrish.

"I feel OK, but my shoulder isn't doing too well," Ortiz said.
"I feel better and sometimes I feel worse."

David Newhan hit an RBI single in the ninth to make it 8-3.

Damon got Boston's offense started in the third inning with his
20th homer, a solo shot to center on a 3-2 pitch. The drive upped
his RBI total to 89, eclipsing his previous career high set in 2000
with Kansas City.

Wakefield allowed two hits through the first four innings, but
ran into trouble after retiring the first two batters in the fifth.
Jay Gibbons singled, took second on a wild pitch and advanced on a
passed ball before Larry Bigbie walked and Brian Roberts tied it
with a single to right.

The Orioles went up 2-1 in the sixth when Miguel Tejada hit a
one-out single, advanced on a passed ball and scored on a two-out
single by Geronimo Gil. It was the second passed ball of the game
for Mirabelli, who struggled much of the night trying to keep
Wakefield's knuckleball in his mitt.

Game notes
Baltimore C Javy Lopez didn't start because of a bruised
left ankle, but entered as a pinch hitter in the eighth and flied
out with two outs and two on. ... Boston's Manny Ramirez extended
his hitting streak to 11 games. ... Wakefield's 12 wins are his
most since 1998.