10/02/2004 5:21 PM ET
Red Sox take first half of twinbill
By Amy K. Nelson / Special to MLB.com
|Ellis Burks, playing in his 2,000th and perhaps final game, singled in the second. (Chris Gardner/AP)
BALTIMORE -- Bronson Arroyo's tightly woven braids are just one of the many changes this season for the right-hander, whose entire career has undergone a metamorphosis.
His regular season culminated Saturday in a 7-5 win over Baltimore in the first game of a doubleheader.
Arroyo, in his first appearance at Camden Yards, was out after just 45 pitches in his final start of the season. But his scoreless outing came a day after he was announced as either the team's third or fourth starter in the playoffs.
Being handed a playoff start is an impressive achievement for Arroyo, who bounced between the minors and the Majors before settling in with Boston at the end of last season.
"It's going to be the biggest start of my career," he said of his pending postseason outing.
The climb since Spring Training has been significant, when the then-Goldielocked Arroyo was behind Byung-Hyun Kim on the depth chart, slated to work out of the bullpen and be a spot starter.
But after Kim struggled and was demoted to the minors, Arroyo assumed the fifth spot in the rotation and has been one of Boston's steadiest starters this season.
"I just wanted to come out and establish myself as a Major League starter," said Arroyo, "and to prove to everybody that I could go 180 innings without breaking down."
Arroyo, who took out his corn rows after Saturday's start but said they'll be back for the playoffs, finished 10-9 with a 4.03 ERA in 32 appearances. He struck out 142 and walked 47 in 178 2/3 innings.
"It's fun to watch a guy get better in front of your eyes," manager Terry Francona said. "He's had a big hand in helping us win."
In Game 1 on Saturday, the Boston offense attacked right away.
Jason Varitek's leadoff walk in the second sparked a six-run frame, capped by Johnny Damon's two-run single. But the highlight of the inning was Ellis Burks, who made what was likely the final start of his career.
The large contingent of Red Sox fans on hand gave Burks a standing ovation when he was introduced in his 2,000th career game. Burks, the designated hitter, then hit a 3-2 pitch into left field to put runners on first and second. He came around on Gabe Kapler's single to right field.
Burks flew out to deep center in his second at-bat for the final out of the second before giving way to pinch-hitter Kevin Youkilis in the fourth.
Baltimore rookie Daniel Cabrera enjoyed a strong campaign in 2004, but on Saturday he was no match for Boston, which entered leading the Majors with 933 runs. Cabrera (12-8) only got one out in the second inning, and it came after seven batters had reached.
The Orioles came back with three home runs, with catcher Javy Lopez hitting a solo shot off Terry Adams (6-4) in the fifth.
Ramiro Mendoza, one of the Boston relievers believed to be on the cusp of the playoff roster, was pulled in the seventh after giving up a two-out, two-run homer to B.J. Surhoff. Mike Timlin gave up two-run shot in the eighth to Miguel Tejada, who tied Cal Ripken's club record for homers by a shortstop with 34.
Keith Foulke pitched the ninth for his 32nd save.
Arroyo left after three scoreless innings, allowing one hit and striking out one. Before Saturday's game, Francona said he was going to keep Arroyo on a 50-pitch limit.
After the third, the lanky kid from Key West, Fla. -- with just nine Major League wins entering this season -- hopped off the mound and into the dugout. The next time he pitches, it will be in the American League Division Series.
"Pitching in the ALCS last year and against the Yankees this season," Arroyo said, "I think that prepared me for every situation."
Amy K. Nelson is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.