The Red Sox remain a sloppy mess, and last night one of their few reliable pitchers fell victim to the September slide.
Clinging to a 5-4 lead with one out in the eighth inning, the Sox turned to closer Jonathan Papelbon. The closer relieved Daniel Bard, who retired the side in order in the seventh but allowed two singles while getting just one out in the eighth.
Papelbon dismissed Chris Davis on called strikes, but then surrendered a single to Nolan Reimold to load the bases. Robert Andino followed by lining a 2-2 fast ball in the gap for a bases clearing double lifting the Orioles to a 7-5 lead.
Once again, the Red Sox offense showed no life in the late innings of a close game. They were retired in order in the eighth and ninth innings to complete the 7-5 loss.
Now 88-67, Boston still holds a two-game lead over Tampa Bay in the wild card race. The Rays were defeated, 5-0, by the Yankees.
The loss marked yet another game when a Red Sox starter flopped. Erik Bedard, who returned from a strained lat injury and is still nursing a sore knee, tossed two scoreless frames, and then he struggled through a 50-pitch third inning. allowing four runs. Only one was earned.
Bedard could have escaped with permitting just one run, but right fielder Josh Reddick misplayed Vladimir Guerrero’s liner with two outs, causing a 2-1 Baltimore lead. The Orioles added two more runs on Mark Reynolds’ single.
Bedard departed after 2.2 innings and was charged with four runs (one earned), five hits and two walks.
Despire the shoddy defense, it appeared that the Red Sox would slug their way to a win. Adrian Gonzalez, who belted an RBI dobule off Orioles right-hander Rick Vandenhurk in the first inning, launched his 27th home run of the season in the third, a two-run shot, trimming the deficit to 4-3.
Boston grabbed a 5-4 lead in the fourth thanks to Mike Aviles grounding a run-scoring single and Reynolds botching what should have been the completion of an inning-ending double play. With the based loaded and one out, Gonzalez tapped a grounder to first. Reynolds went home to get the force out and catcher Matt Wieters fired a strike to Reynolds at first, but the ball clanked off his glove, allowing Aviles to score.
The Red Sox reached Vandenhurk for five runs (four earned) and seven hits in three innings, but they had no answer for the very hittable Jo-Jo Reyes (three innings, no runs, three hits) and four other Orioles relievers, including Pedro Strop and Jim Johnson, who tossed a scoreless frame in the eighth and ninth respectively.
Now 5-15 in September, the Red Sox have dropped two out of three to the woeful Orioles. Tonight, Josh Beckett will try to breathe life into Boston’s fading season. He will be opposed by right-hander Tommy Hunter in the finale of the four-game series.
The Rays have a day-night doubleheader against the Yankees at Yankee Stadium and another clash with the Yankees on Thursday when the Red Sox are off. Boston opens a three-game set at Yankee Stadium on Friday.