|Ramon Hernandez drops David Ortiz's foul in the 13th, one of three errors in the inning. (Gail Burton/Associated Press)|
BALTIMORE - When someone offered birthday wishes to Manny Ramírez yesterday afternoon, he had a ready response.
"Thirty-six here," he said. "Thirty-nine in the Dominican Republic."
Ramírez did not become the first big leaguer to hit his 500th home run on his birthday, but leave it to the birthday boy to salvage the longest night of the season for the Red Sox.
Ramírez hustled to second on third baseman Melvin Mora's 13th-inning throwing error and scored on Mike Lowell's single to break a 2-all tie. A throwing error by shortstop Freddie Bynum, Baltimore's third of the inning, allowed two more unearned runs to score, the Sox stole a club-record six bases, and six relievers combined for seven scoreless innings in a 5-2 win over the Orioles before a bipartisan crowd of 46,199 in Camden Yards.
"I can't play nine, but I can play 13," Ramirez said afterward, a winking reference to how he often comes out of a game for a defensive replacement.
Not last night, when he doubled in the first inning to set up Boston's second run, then came up empty his next four trips to the plate until Mora sailed a throw over the head of first baseman Kevin Millar in the 13th.
Mike Timlin pitched out of a bases-loaded jam in the 12th for the win, surviving a bobble and recovery by shortstop Julio Lugo, while Jonathan Papelbon worked the 13th for his first save in eight days.
"We had to bob and weave, and we did," manager Terry Francona said.
"Good thing, because after we scored those two [in the first], it took us about 4 1/2 hours to score again."
The Sox bullpen stranded seven runners from the ninth inning on: Manny Delcarmen stranding two in the ninth, when he induced Mora to roll to third; Craig Hansen stranding two in the 10th, when he whiffed Ramon Hernandez; and Timlin leaving them loaded in the 12th, retiring Hernandez on a fly ball to the track in left, where Ramírez casually gathered it in and flipped it to a fan in the stands.
Jacoby Ellsbury had three hits and stole three bases, the first Sox player to steal more than two bases in a game since Jerry Remy bagged four on June 14, 1980. The final two Sox steals came with Lowell on the front end of a double steal against inattentive reliever Dennis Sarfate, the last of seven Baltimore pitchers.
"I don't think we've ever told Mikey Lowell before a game to steal third, but our guys were heads up," Francona said.
The Sox had scored in just two of their previous 31 innings.
The win, just their second in seven games on the trip, enabled the Sox to remain a game behind Tampa Bay in the American League East. It took them 4 hours 49 minutes to do so. Francona said the Sox would discuss adding another reliever before tonight's game.
"You play that long," Ellsbury said, "you hope to come out with a win."
The Sox scored twice in the first inning, their first runs in 13 innings, but a botched suicide squeeze thwarted a second-inning opportunity - Alex Cora failed to make contact, leaving Coco Crisp hanging - and Boston came up empty in nine straight chances with runners in scoring position against starter Daniel Cabrera.
"You probably won't see that again until spring training," said Francona, no fan of the suicide squeeze. "We might do it to try and win a game in Winter Haven, because it doesn't work."
Ellsbury tried to manufacture the go-ahead run with his feet, stealing second and third after reaching on a throwing error by Mora in the seventh, but even that couldn't awaken the Sox from their torpor. Dustin Pedroia (3 for 28 on the trip) grounded to third and David Ortiz grounded out to first.
Josh Beckett did his part, striking out 10 in an overpowering six innings. But a tainted run scored on Jason Varitek's throwing error in the second, and Aubrey Huff's solo home run in the fourth left him in a 2-all deadlock by the time he retired. Beckett, who temporarily lost his strike zone when he walked three straight with two outs in the sixth (knocking down old teammate Millar in the process) before making Adam Jones his 10th punchout, threw a season-high 118 pitches and was replaced by Hideki Okajima in the seventh.
The Sox began the night with an 11-19 road record, a drastic departure for a team that traveled well last season (45-36). Their winning percentage of .367 on the road was third worst in the AL, better than only Seattle (7-20, .259) and Baltimore (10-18, .357).
Five losses in six games on the West Coast portion of the trip and a .169 team batting average had the Sox scrapping for runs early. After Ellsbury opened the game by slicing an opposite-field double to left, Pedroia bunted him to third, normally anathema for a team that disdains giving up outs, especially early. Ortiz lined a single to score Ellsbury, rambled to third when Ramírez doubled into the left-field corner, and scored on Lowell's sacrifice fly.
But those were the last runs the Sox would score against Cabrera, who beat them, 6-3, May 14 and left runners stranded all night. Crisp walked and continued to second when ball four went to the screen, then stole third with one out in the second. But he was erased when Cora came up empty on the suicide squeeze.
Ortiz doubled in the third and advanced no farther. Ellsbury doubled in the fifth and stalled. Lowell doubled with one out in the sixth and Varitek drew a walk with two out, but Crisp rolled out to end the inning.
Lowell singled with one out in the eighth off the Orioles' second pitcher, rookie Jim Johnson, but was erased when Kevin Youkilis rolled into a double play nicely turned by Bynum.
The Orioles scored in the second when Millar lined a single to left and took third on Luke Scott's ground single to right. Scott broke for second, and when Varitek's throw sailed into center field, Millar strolled home. Scott was credited with a stolen base.
Huff led off the fourth with a home run when Beckett left a 1-and-0 fastball over the plate. Beckett has struck out Huff more times (10) than any other Oriole. The home run was the ex-Ray's first off the Sox ace.
Okajima gave the Sox two scoreless innings, sending the game into the ninth with the score tied.
Gordon Edes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.