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Orioles walk all over Sox

Jones can't find plate in 13th

BALTIMORE -- The walls of his corner office in the Red Sox clubhouse at Fenway Park were bare. The drawers in the hotel suite he will occupy a mile from the park for the next six months were empty. And Sox manager Terry Francona last night was hours away from starting a new life in a city of strange places and unfamiliar faces in his Boston debut as the most second-guessed professional in New England.

But as much as he looked forward to settling in after living out of a suitcase for two months, Francona expected to have all he needed awaiting him in his otherwise barren office: a stack of lineup cards.

"That's all I really need," he said, "and I'm ready to go."

He got plenty of use out of his lineup card in the finale of a four-game opening road series against the Orioles, marking it every which way in an urgent attempt to help the Sox prevail amid a prolonged 2-2 standoff at Camden Yards. But all the ink ultimately went for naught as Bobby Jones walked four batters in the bottom of the 13th inning to lift the O's over the Sox, 3-2, before the frenzied stragglers from a crowd of 31,121 in a chilly rain.

Jones issued the decisive walk with one out on his eighth pitch of the at-bat to Larry Bigbie, forcing in Javy Lopez, who walked leading off the inning.

Jones, who also pitched the 12th inning, was the last Sox pitcher available since Francona said Ramiro Mendoza told the trainers to stay away from him if possible because of "a little tightness" or "a little stiffness."

"I went out there and battled the best I could," Jones said, "and it didn't work out."

Let the second-guessing begin, as inevitably occurs in the aftermath of a marathon game (4 hours and 37 minutes) fraught with managerial options. Both teams had a number of chances to snap the stalemate as they played deeper into the night.

"We found ways to keep the game going, but we didn't do enough offensively to really give ourselves a good chance to win," Francona said. "On the road, when you get that deep in a game, you're playing with fire."

The Sox, who erupted for 10 runs on 14 hits the night before, mustered only six hits.

"We just didn't swing the bats," Johnny Damon said. "Two runs is not going to win you too many ballgames."

The Orioles took a shot in the 12th when Bigbie singled leading off against Jones and scampered to second on a sacrifice by Brian Roberts. But Jones got Melvin Mora to fly out, then intentionally walked Miguel Tejada before he escaped by inducing Rafael Palmeiro to ground out. The Sox also benefited in the 11th when Jay Gibbons tried to advance from first base into scoring position on a fly to center and was ruled out for leaving too early.

But Francona's crew lost a prime opportunity to grab the lead in the 11th after Manny Ramirez drew a one-out walk off Mike DeJean and Kevin Millar singled Ramirez to third. The Orioles summoned lefthander Buddy Groom and, with the righthanded-hitting Gabe Kapler running for Ramirez, Groom got the lefthanded-hitting David Ortiz to line to second. Groom then walked Mark Bellhorn to load the bases, bringing up Cesar Crespo, who fanned.

Francona said he believed Ortiz had a better shot at producing in the situation than Kapler.

The manager also defended his decision to send in Kapler to run for Ramirez, removing Ramirez's bat from the lineup. "I planned on the go-ahead run," he said. "It's something I wrestled with. I thought it was the right thing to do at the time."

For their part, the Orioles had the Sox on the ropes in the 10th when Mora stroked a leadoff double off Keith Foulke, scrambled to third on a wild pitch, and broke for the plate on Lopez's one-out fly to relatively shallow center. At that, Damon, who has endured years of criticism for lacking a powerful arm, made his second sensational defensive play in as many nights, firing a perfect one-hopper to Jason Varitek at the plate to double up Mora and silence the O's. Damon had leaped at the center-field wall the night before to rob David Segui of a three-run homer.

"Everybody out there tried to keep us in that game," Francona said. "We just couldn't find a way to win."

Francona used every position player but Brian Daubach and every reliever but Mendoza, though he was unable to prevent the Sox from returning home 2-2 from their opening trip.

The Sox and Orioles were deadlocked since Ellis Burks slugged a solo homer, his first for the Sox in 12 years, to erase a 2-1 Baltimore lead in the sixth inning. Sox starter Tim Wakefield held on long enough to carry the Sox into the bottom of the sixth before he was lifted with a runner on first and one out for Alan Embree.

In his 500th career appearance, Embree fanned two straight batters to end the sixth and clear the way for a Sox rally in the seventh. With one out, the Sox loaded the bases on walks by O's starter Matt Riley. But on came lefty B.J. Ryan, who got Damon to line out to short and Bill Mueller on a soft liner to first. Wakefield kept them in contention by surrendering only the two runs on three hits and five walks. But Riley was similarly nasty, yielding only two (one earned) on three hits and four walks over 6 1/3 innings.

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