BALTIMORE -- 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
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
"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
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
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."
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.