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Previously hitless Damon goes 5-for-5

4/8/2004

BALTIMORE (AP) -- Johnny Damon was delighted to snap his 0-for-9
slump with a perfect night at the plate, yet it was a sensational
catch in center field that really made him smile.

Nomar Garciaparra, who opened the season on the disabled list, told the Red Sox he'd like to test his injured Achilles tendon.

However, manager Terry Francona nixed the idea, saying it was too ambitious. "I talked to Nomar, he's doing real good. He said he wishes he could play Friday but he's not improved that much," Francona said. "He's doing a lot of stuff in therapy and then a workout."

Garciaparra was examined last week in Florida by Mark Slovenkai, an ankle and foot specialist from New England Baptist Hospital. No structural damage was found in the tendon, but the injury was diagnosed as a bruise in the cartilage that covers the tendon. The only treatment is rest. He is expected to miss the first three weeks of the season.

Damon went 5-for-5 with two RBI, and the Boston Red Sox used a
seven-run second inning to cruise past the Baltimore Orioles 10-3
Wednesday night.

David Ortiz homered and Kevin Millar had three hits for the Red
Sox, who have won two straight after losing to Baltimore on opening
night.

"Tonight everyone got to see what the Red Sox are all about,"
Damon said.

The 28,373 at Camden Yards also found out just how good Damon
can be. Besides matching his career high in hits and raising his
batting average to .357, Damon stole a base, scored twice and
robbed David Segui of a homer with a leaping catch at the wall.

The play saved three runs and kept the score 10-2.

"I had a bead on it. I had a good idea where the fence was,"
Damon said. "I timed it perfect."

And so, on a night in which he excelled with his bat, Damon
derived far more satisfaction from his defensive gem.

"Five hits is nice. A great catch keeps your team well ahead,"
he said. "I was thankful for the catch."

The second-inning outburst featured six hits, three walks and
three defensive lapses by the Orioles. The seven runs, all of which
scored with two outs, were more than Boston tallied in its first
two games combined.

Derek Lowe (1-0) allowed two runs and seven hits in six innings.
He struck out three and walked two.

"I was able to throw most of my pitches for strikes," he said.
"For the first game, I'm very pleased with the way it went."

Millar led off the Boston second with a double off Kurt
Ainsworth (0-1), making his first start with the Orioles. Jason
Varitek then walked and Gabe Kapler hit into a double play.

After Mark Bellhorn drew a walk to put runners on first and
second, Pokey Reese hit a grounder to shortstop Miguel Tejada, who
looked at third before throwing to first base -- too late to get
Reese.

"He thought he had a chance at third, but you don't really have
a chance to set up when you have a guy like Reese running,"
Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli said. "You give a team like that four
outs, it's going to hurt."

Damon then hit a single to left, and Varitek easily scored
before Bellhorn slid under catcher Javy Lopez, who failed to
control the throw from left fielder Larry Bigbie. Bill Mueller
followed with a two-run single and Ortiz walked before Manny
Ramirez hit a fly to center that Luis Matos misjudged, resulting in
a two-run double.

"I saw it off the bat. That's it," Matos said.

Millar hit an RBI single before Rick Bauer struck out Varitek to
end the inning.

Although Ainsworth probably deserved a better fate, he was
charged with seven earned runs and seven hits in just 1 2-3
innings.

"I felt like I was pitching out of the stretch the whole
game," he said. "When bad things happen, you still have to make
good pitches."

Rafael Palmeiro singled in a run for Baltimore in the third, but
Ortiz made it 10-1 in the sixth with his first homer, a three-run
shot to right.

"We scored 10 runs with two outs. You don't see that too
often," Boston manager Terry Francona said. "That was huge."

Jay Gibbons hit an RBI single in the bottom half, and Bigbie
homered in the seventh.

Game notes
The top four batters in the Boston lineup combined to go
10-for-17 with nine RBI and seven runs scored. ... Lopez had two
hits to raise his batting average to .545 (6-for-11). ... Both of
Ainsworth's losses in the AL have come against Boston. ... Bigbie's
homer was the Orioles' second of the season, the first since Lopez
connected in the second inning of the opener. ... Kapler was the
only Boston starter that failed to get a hit or walk.