BOSTON — Orioles left-hander Wei-Yin Chen had never thrown fewer than four innings or given up more than seven runs in any of his starts as a major leaguer.
He picked a particularly inopportune time to do both.
The Orioles embarked Tuesday on their crucial nine-game road trip against three postseason contenders, kicking it off with a deflating 13-2 loss to the American League East-leading Boston Red Sox.
“We got our butts kicked tonight and there's no doubt about that. But it's over now,” Orioles catcher Matt Wieters said. “We're [looking] forward, and we're ready to go tomorrow. It's just a loss now. Whether we lost 2-1 or like we did tonight. It's one loss and we'll move forward.”
As a unit, the Orioles hadn't given up that many runs in a game this season, and the 11-run margin ties for the Orioles' worst blowout of 2013.
That's not exactly the way they drew up the beginning of this stretch run.
“I have to apologize to my team. I didn't want to hurt my team,” Chen said through interpreter Tim Lin. “I still have to keep my same approach and do my work, same preparation every day. … Nothing different, I just need to come back strong.”
The lopsided loss before an announced 36,226 dropped the Orioles (70-60) to 6 ½ games behind the Red Sox (78-55) in the division. They are 2-2 at Fenway Park this season after winning seven of nine from the Red Sox on the road in 2012.
This one lands squarely at the feet of Chen, the steady Taiwanese southpaw who had allowed more than three runs only twice in 16 previous outings this year and only 11 times in 48 career starts with the Orioles.
Tuesday, Chen allowed eight runs on eight hits, three walks and a hit batter in just 3 2/3 innings pitched. He had given up as many as five runs in a start this year only once previously before allowing five runs in the fourth inning alone. His season ERA jumped from 3.19 to 3.76.
Afterward, he called it “probably the worst game in my career.”
“It seemed like every time Wei-Yin made a mistake, he paid for it,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “He jerked some balls across the plate and left some out over there where he usually doesn't do it. He's working on an extra days rest and he's carrying a lot of fastball, but just didn't command it very well at the level that we've been spoiled with by him all year.”
Things were rough for Chen (7-7) from the beginning. With one out in the first he walked Shane Victorino on five pitches. Dustin Pedroia doubled and David Ortiz hit a sacrifice fly for the first run of the evening.
The Red Sox scored again in the third when Victorino hit a two-run shot to left for his 10th homer of the season and 100th of his career. He would later add a three-run homer in the sixth against reliever Troy Patton — Victorino's second career multi-homer game — and a two-run double against Brian Matusz in the seventh.
Victorino, who set a career high with seven RBIs, also was plunked by a Chen pitch after his first homer. The Red Sox right fielder flipped the ball toward Chen as he jogged up the first base line and the Orioles lefty watched it roll.
“I don't want to comment on that. I know he's a really good athlete, but I'm a really good pitcher, too,” Chen said. “I didn't want to hit him. I didn't mean to hit him. But you can tell, I didn't have my command today. That ball just definitely was an accident.”
The fourth inning was particularly disastrous for Chen, who started the frame by allowing a double and then a monstrous two-run homer to Mike Napoli that cleared the Green Monster in left. Chen has permitted 12 homers this season, and six have come in his last three outings.
The Red Sox loaded the bases with two outs in the fourth — they actually helped Chen by running into an out on a rundown between second and third base — before Pedroia doubled two runners home. Chen intentionally walked David Ortiz and Patton gave up a two-run double to Jonny Gomes — with the runs being charged to Chen.
Twice last year, Chen allowed seven runs in a game. Once this season — on May 1 at Seattle — and once in 2012 Chen could only get through four innings.
But never has he been as thoroughly out of sync as he was Tuesday. Chen has now lost four of his past five decisions.
“Wei-Yin has been very consistent for us and very good for us,” Wieters said. “That's why it's not hard to say it's just a blip on the radar. He works harder than anybody, and everybody is going to have [these games] at some point. You're going to have bad days and the biggest thing is learn from it and move on.”
His counterpart Tuesday, Boston lefty Felix Doubront, retired the first six Orioles he faced, including three on consecutive strikeouts before struggling with his control in the third.
He allowed a single to J.J. Hardy to lead off the inning and Danny Valencia followed with a broken-bat single. Doubront (10-6) then plunked Steve Pearce to load the bases and walked Brian Roberts to tie the score at 1-1. Manny Machado added a sacrifice fly to give the Orioles a brief lead, but they couldn't score again in the frame.
And they wouldn't score again all game versus Doubront and two relievers — managing just four hits total.
“It was 13-2. It wasn't like it was 2-1. It wasn't a fun, pleasant game, but it's over with,” Orioles center fielder Adam Jones said. “Let's come back tomorrow with a better game plan. We've got to bring it. We've got to be better. Hey, this game happened. It's over with.”
It was out of hand in the fourth. And, by the eighth, the Orioles had several reserves on the field, including Wilson Betemit, who grounded out to end the game in the ninth. Betemit was making his season debut after injuring his knee while running the bases March 25 in Sarasota.
That exhibition game was also against the Red Sox.
Unfortunately for the Orioles, Tuesday's contest counted.
In the Orioles' pursuit of the division, it actually counted twice.
“I don't think it changes the complexion,” said Showalter, whose team is now 3 ½ games behind the Oakland Athletics for the second AL wild-card spot. “I just think thank goodness it was one night. That's what's great about the game. We get to wipe the slate clean tomorrow.”