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Birds of a feather

Red Sox stick together in thorough pounding of Orioles

BALTIMORE -- Boredom -- a sweet respite from roster moves, surgery and controversial comments -- overwhelmed the Red Sox clubhouse yesterday, extending from their spacious home in the visitors' quarters to the Camden Yards field. It was normal, nothing more. No one joined the team; no one left. And, at the end of a nearly perfect night in Baltimore, there was simply a win.

That was perhaps, just what they needed.

Bronson Arroyo allowed two runs in 7 2/3 innings in a 7-2 win over the Orioles last night, continuing a string of performances that looked quite nice from the bullpen's point of view. Since Keith Foulke lost Monday night's game in Texas -- a span of four games -- the Sox bullpen has been responsible for just 2 2/3 innings.

That was perhaps, just what they needed.

''It's been huge. It's given our bullpen a chance to rest when it was beat up a little bit," said Jason Varitek. ''That's valuable to guys we've had to use a lot."

Arroyo, working on a string of 10 straight retired when Rafael Palmeiro's 564th career home run sent him to the dugout, got more than his share of cheers in front of a crowd of 49,174 that seemed to be split equally between Boston and Baltimore fans. Arroyo struck out three, walked two, and threw 114 pitches. Palmeiro passed Reggie Jackson on the all-time homer list with his solo shot, but that didn't matter. Not when the Red Sox were leading, 7-1, before the homer.

''I went out to the bullpen and said to Wally [pitching coach Dave Wallace], 'You got any tips for me, man, cause I can't get these guys out,' " Arroyo said. ''He wanted me to use my fastball a little bit better and be more aggressive. Luckily, I had a good fastball today and I felt like I could throw it more."

Backed by a defensive effort that included arguably Edgar Renteria's best play in a Red Sox uniform -- the shortstop went into a full dive to his right to snare Sal Fasano's liner -- Arroyo was rarely in trouble. Only two runners (Brian Roberts and Palmeiro) reached third base, and both scored.

Before last night's game, Arroyo had not beaten the Orioles in four starts. And it hadn't even been close. In seven appearances, including three in relief, Arroyo had an 0-2 record and a 7.63 ERA.

That, certainly, will go down.

''Bronson Arroyo, you've got to love that kid," Kevin Millar said. ''That guy can go out and pitch. He competes every night, gets a quality start every night. Nothing bothers him. He's the Johnny Damon of pitching."

And, on this night, that was high praise.

Damon, one night after sitting with a right shoulder injury aggravated on a diving catch Tuesday in Texas, wasn't content to simply extend his hitting streak to 23 games. He went 4 for 5, including two doubles, a walk, and a run, although he was stranded three times.

Although the Red Sox put up enough runs to beat the Orioles -- and dropped Baltimore to third place in the division after the Yankees defeated the Indians -- they stranded a season-high 15 runners.

Manny Ramirez found the bases replete with runners nearly every time he came up. He drove in three but could have had a whole bunch more.

After single runs in the first, second, and fourth innings, the Red Sox finally broke through for two in the sixth to give Arroyo a cushion. Up for the second time with the bases loaded -- the first had brought a pop to shortstop Miguel Tejada -- Ramirez shot a single to left-center that scored Mark Bellhorn and Damon. Those three RBIs brought his season total to 80. That feat has been completed just once since the statistics have been recorded. Ramirez also did it in 2001.

The Red Sox finished off the Orioles in the eighth with two more runs.

And that was it. Plenty of men left on, a few sparkling defensive plays -- Tejada took out a Millar liner in the second that rivaled Renteria's -- and one mammoth home run. A win.

Simple, really, as that.

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