It was an ignominious end to what should have been a stellar road trip for the Boston Red Sox. After winning the first three games of a four-game set against the Baltimore Orioles they blew an eighth-inning lead, lost the game and designated hitter David Ortiz to injury.
Ortiz, who leads the Red Sox with 13 homers and 43 RBIs, will be placed on the 15-day disabled list with a partially torn tendon in his left wrist.
"He's a big part of the team," Manny Ramirez said Monday night after homering in a third straight game. "We have to keep battling without David. Let's wait for him and pray that he'll get better soon."
Ortiz received an MRI in Boston on Monday; the injury was determined to be a torn ECU tendon shead.
"Surgery is very unlikely," manager Terry Francona said.
The move to place Ortiz on the disabled list will occur Tuesday, Francona said, and Boston will recall right-hander Justin Masterson from triple-A Pawtucket to fill Ortiz's spot on the roster. Masterson will start Tuesday night against Tampa Bay.
Adam Jones broke a tie with a three-run double in the eighth inning, and the Orioles overcame another home run by Ramirez to avoid a four-game sweep.
Baltimore blew a 2-0 lead, then rallied with a four-run eighth against Hideki Okajima (1-1), who came in with an 0.72 ERA. After a sacrifice fly by Kevin Millar tied it, the Orioles loaded the bases with two outs for Jones, who worked the count to 3-1 before hitting a liner off the left-field wall.
"I was just patient with him," Jones said. "He threw a good pitch up and in, 2-1. I've been swinging at that pitch, but I just laid off of it."
Jones is 3-for-5 with three doubles and nine RBIs with the bases loaded this season.
Ramirez's 12th homer of the season gave him 502 for his career, two behind Eddie Murray for 23rd place in baseball history. The sixth-inning solo shot, on an 0-2 pitch from Jeremy Guthrie, extended Ramirez's hitting streak to eight games and got Boston within 2-1.
Ramirez was the designated hitter in place of Ortiz, and will likely continue that role instead of playing left field.
"I love DH. I'm pretty sure they're not going to miss my Gold Glove out there," Ramirez said with a grin. "We're fine. We're going to be fine."
The last time Ramirez homered in three straight games was May 22-24, 2006. He also played a key role in helping Boston take the lead in the eighth, hitting a single off Jim Johnson (1-2) to put the go-ahead run in scoring position for Mike Lowell, who delivered an RBI single for a 3-2 lead.
But Ramirez flied out to right with two on in the ninth inning to end the game.
Despite the loss to Baltimore and the distressing news about Ortiz, the defending World Series champions headed back to Boston with their spirits soaring.
"The team is playing great, we take three out of four, and we're going home," Ramirez said.
Tim Wakefield allowed two runs and five hits in seven innings for the Red Sox, who were denied their first four-game sweep of the Orioles since Sept. 20-23, 2002.
"(Wakefield) handed the ball to the bullpen and more often than not, he gives us a chance to win when he goes out there," Francona said.
Elsewhere in the AL it was: Minnesota 6, New York 5; Cleveland 13, Texas 9; Los Angeles 4, Seattle 2; and Oakland 3, Detroit 2.
At Baltimore, the Boston bullpen had gone 14 straight innings without allowing a run, and Okajima had permitted two runs all season before yielding four in two-thirds of an inning against the Orioles.
"It looked like he got a lot of fastballs over the plate. We were so comfortable getting to him," Francona said. "He just threw a lot of fastballs where he didn't want to - and he still almost got out of it."
Johnson got an inning-ending double-play in the eighth to earn his first major league win, and George Sherrill got three outs for his 18th save.
Guthrie gave up two runs and eight hits in 6 1-3 innings. His lone walk, to Alex Cora, turned into the tying run when Kevin Cash followed with an RBI double to end Guthrie's outing at 120 pitches.
Guthrie is 0-3 with a 2.33 ERA in his last four starts.
Orioles manager Dave Trembley was ejected by home plate umpire Alfonso Marquez in the third inning for protesting ball and strike calls. Before leaving, Trembley took a stab at illustrating Marquez's strike zone, running his finger along the inside stripe of each batter's box.
"I yelled at him from the dugout, Those pitches aren't strikes," Trembley said. "Then I had to show him where I thought they were."
After Boston stranded two runners in the fourth, Baltimore went up 2-0 in the bottom half when Aubrey Huff hit an RBI double and scored on a single by Millar.
Twins 6, Yankees 5
At Minneapolis, Delmon Young had three doubles and three RBIs and Joe Mauer hit his long-awaited first homer of the season to lead Minnesota past New York Yankees.
Indians 13, Rangers 9
At Arlington, Texas, Casey Blake homered twice and matched a career high with seven RBIs before Ben Francisco hit a tiebreaking two-run homer to power Cleveland past Texas.
Angels 4, Mariners 2
At Seattle, Ervin Santana gave up two runs in 7 2-3 innings to lead Los Angeles past the Mariners.
Athletics 3, Tigers 2
At Oakland, Calif., Bobby Crosby hit an RBI single in the ninth inning to lift the Athletics over Detroit.
John Smoltz's fairy tale return to the mound may have been a flop but it wasn't fatal.
Unveiling a new three-quarters motion to relieve the pain in his aching shoulder, Smoltz came on in the ninth with a chance for his first save since 2004. He didn't get it, giving up a two-out, two-run single to Jeremy Hermida, but the Braves rallied for a 7-5 victory on Yunel Escobar's two-run homer in the 10th inning Monday night.
"The beauty of this role," Smoltz said, "is I get to go right back out and do it again."
The starter-turned-closer-turned-starter has returned to the bullpen, most likely the last switch of a back-and-forth career that has made Smoltz the only pitcher in baseball history with 200 wins and 150 saves.
At 41, he hopes that pitching one inning at a time will extend his career. He's clearly got some work to do.
"I needed a little more touch," Smoltz said. "I knew I was going to be amped up. I threw the ball awfully hard but not exactly in some of the spots. ... I needed the touch to be a little bit better."
The right-hander was activated before the game after two stints on the disabled list this season - sandwiched around five starts - and a rehab stint in the minors.
When Escobar came through with a two-out hit in the eighth that put Atlanta ahead 4-3, the crowd began buzzing with excitement. The bullpen gate swung open and Smoltz emerged, walking slowly to the mound as he did so many times from 2001-04, when he piled up 154 saves as one of baseball's most dominating closers.
"It was the first time all year I had goose bumps in the outfield," teammate Jeff Francoeur said.
But Smoltz is still a work in progress. While able to throw in the mid-90s, the new motion robbed him of one of his most effective weapons, the split-finger fastball. He had good movement on some of his pitches, but others just floated over the plate. And he's still struggling to hit the right spots.
"If you ask me what I'm concerned about, it would be that I'm trying to overpower the ball and don't trust the movement," Smoltz said.
The ninth started well for Smoltz - Cody Ross popped up to third on the first pitch. But Matt Treanor lined a double to the gap in the right-centre, the ball skidding off the glove of a diving Gregor Blanco, and pinch-hitter Wes Helms lined a sharp single to left to put runners at first and third.
It looked as though Smoltz might get out of it when Hanley Ramirez flied to medium right. Ross didn't dare test Francoeur's powerful arm, but Helms took second on a high throw toward the plate. Hermida followed with a liner to left, the ball getting through Greg Norton to prevent any chance of a play at the plate on the go-ahead run.
"I can't describe the feeling," Smoltz said of blowing the save. "It's one of the worst feelings in all of baseball."
Said Hermida: "He was coming off the DL and trying to figure out his pitches. We were very fortunate to get him tonight. He's one of the best in the game."
At least Smoltz didn't get saddled with a loss. Kevin Gregg walked Francoeur and Brian McCann, pinch-hitter Josh Anderson hustled down the line to beat out a potential game-ending double play, and Francoeur raced home with the tying run when Gregg skidded one in the dirt for a wild pitch with two outs.
Elsewhere in the NL it was: Philadelphia 5, Cincinnati 4; Pittsburgh 5, St. Louis 4; Milwaukee 4, Arizona 3; Chicago 7, San Diego 6; Los Angeles 8, Colorado 2; and San Francisco 10, New York 2.
At Atlanta, in the 10th, Logan Kensing (3-1) walked Kelly Johnson, then threw a wild pitch that sent him to second. Escobar followed with his fifth homer of the season, a drive that bounced off the top of the wall in right centre and into the seats.
The Braves, who have a 2-16 record in one-run games, didn't improve on that mark. But they'll take it after getting swept in Cincinnati last weekend.
"I thought it was just a fly ball," Escobar said through a translator. "I was just trying to do my job: fly ball to move the runner to third base, and let Chipper Jones try to drive him in."
Will Ohman (2-0) earned the win with a scoreless top half of the 10th.
Francoeur and Mark Teixeira homered for the Braves, and Escobar came through at the end: His run-scoring single in the eighth gave Smoltz a shot at the save, and the first game-ending homer of the shortstop's career improved Atlanta's home record to 23-7. They are just 7-21 on the road.
The Braves jumped to a 2-0 lead, but the Marlins tied it in fourth. Hermida led off with a triple to centre and came home on Jorge Cantu's sacrifice fly. After Mike Jacobs struck out, Dan Uggla doubled to left and scored on Luis Gonzalez's two-out single to left.
After Teixeira's homer made it 3-2, Florida knocked out Braves starter Jo-Jo Reyes in the seventh. Uggla started it with another double, this one slamming off the base of the wall in left-centre, and Gonzalez followed with a single to right to put runners at first and third.
Manny Acosta replaced Reyes and got a force-out grounder from Cody Ross, but Uggla trotted home with the tying run with the middle of the infield playing back.
Reyes and Florida starter Scott Olsen posted virtually identical lines: six innings, five hits, three runs and four strikeouts. The only difference: Olsen walked two, Reyes one.
Phillies 5, Reds 4
At Philadelphia, Chase Utley hit his major league-leading 21st homer to help the Phillies beat the Cincinnati Reds on Monday night.
Pirates 5, Cardinals 4
At St. Louis, Jason Michaels hit a tying pinch-hit grand slam in the seventh and Jason Bay of Trail, B.C., drove in the winning run an inning later as the Pirates rallied past the Cardinals.
Brewers 4, Diamondbacks 3
At Milwaukee, Prince Fielder homered to leadoff the eighth and helped scratch across another run with an unlikely steal of third to lift the Brewers over the Diamondbacks.
Cubs 7, Padres 6
At San Diego, Carlos Zambrano was as animated as he was good, helping Chicago to its eighth straight win with a victory over the Padres.
Dodgers 8, Rockies 2
At Los Angeles, Jeff Kent, Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp hit home runs, Derek Lowe pitched eight strong innings for his first win in more than five weeks, and the Dodgers handed the Rockies their eighth straight loss.
Giants 10, Mets 2
At San Francisco, Brian Horwitz hit the first home run of his career with a two-run shot in the Giants' six-run first and Ray Durham also drove in three runs to help San Francisco beat the sluggish New York.