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Added division intrigue


Added division intrigue
The standings aren't upside down. Those really are the Orioles at the top of the AL East and the Red Sox at the bottom.

Last night the 6-3 O's met the 3-6 Sox as teams heading in opposite directions. While the Sox needed a near no-hitter from Tim Wakefield to keep from falling to 2-7 at the end of their West Coast trip, the O's have been mashing the ball and playing like a team that expects to be more than cannon fodder for the rest of the division.

``Offensively we have been very good, very good,'' Orioles manager Dave Trembley said. ``But it's pitching. Pitching and defense are what it's all about.''

Both were in short supply last night as the two squads embarked on a good old-fashioned slugfest that featured 11 runs scored before the game was two innings old.

Runs have been plentiful for the O's thus far, both scored and allowed. They began last night with 10-5 and 10-9 victories to their credit, as well as 11-2 and 19-6 losses.

``We know they're really swinging well, especially the top part of their lineup,'' Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. ``They feel good about themselves. We've got our hands full. Our division's good, and it looks like it's getting better.''

The Orioles actually began the night in second place, behind the 8-3 Blue Jays. The favored Yankees, Rays and Red Sox brought up the rear, with the Sox in dead last.

``You get Toronto and Baltimore coming out of the chute feeling really good about themselves, that makes life in the East a lot tougher,'' Francona said.

It certainly wasn't easy last night. The Orioles capitalized on the wildness of starter Brad Penny, who walked in two runs before allowing a mammoth grand slam to Nick Markakis in the second.

That made it 7-0, but the Red Sox chipped away. They closed the gap with a four-run second of their own that was aided by some luck, including a Jason Varitek single that bounced off the second base bag, a Jacoby Ellsbury blooper that ticked off the glove of charging center fielder Adam Jones, and an infield single by Dustin Pedroia on which he beat starter Jeremy Guthrie to the bag with a dive by a fraction of a second.

Jason Bay's two-run homer and J.D. Drew's solo shot, both to right, drew the Red Sox within 7-5 in the third, and Drew's triple, followed by a Nick Green two-run double, helped make it 8-8 in the fifth.

By that point, Penny was long gone, lifted after walking the leadoff man in the fourth. He went three-plus innings, allowing six hits and seven runs and walking five in his worst performance as a member of the Red Sox , including spring training.

- jtomase@bostonherald.com


Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: April 18, 2009

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