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Near-misses, hot-hitting Red Sox foil Orioles in 4-3 series-ending loss

The Orioles had plenty of time to digest their 4-3 loss to the Boston Red Sox at Camden Yards on Thursday night.

After dropping two of three to the defending World Series champions to open the season, they lingered in the home clubhouse, waiting to leave the ballpark for their delayed 1 a.m. flight to Detroit, just 12 hours before the scheduled first pitch this afternoon against the Tigers.

“Brutal,” shortstop J.J. Hardy called it.

At this point in the season, the Orioles have to believe that luck will sort itself out, especially after a night in which hits by Chris Davis and Matt Wieters hit the top of the outfield wall instead of clearing it and Adam Jones crushed a ball down the left-field line that just hooked foul through the night's late-inning drizzle.

“That will even out,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “The great thing about the length of our season, they kind of play out. If you're good, you'll be good, and if you're not, you won't be. Those types of things, they might be an immediate frustration, but you know the game will be true if you stay true to what you need to do. And our guys will.

“We played three games and engaged in all three and we're going to face some good pitching the next six games, for sure.”

Left-hander Wei-Yin Chen allowed a career-high 12 hits and lasted just 5 2/3 innings against the Red Sox (2-1), but he kept the Orioles within reach in his season debut in front of an announced 20,880.

“We pitched pretty well in this series, for the most part, and they pitched a little better,” Showalter said.

Now the Orioles (1-2) must head out on a six-game road trip to Detroit and New York.

Eleven of the 12 hits against Chen were singles — many of them finding holes between Orioles defenders — but Chen struggled to keep Boston off the bases throughout the night. He did not record a clean inning, and allowed the leadoff man on in each of the first four frames. Three times, that leadoff man scored.

In eight career starts against the Red Sox, Chen is 2-3 with a 5.24 ERA.

“I think that's something you need to overcome as a pitcher,” Chen said through interpreter Louis Chao. “So today, I allowed a lot of hits. That's what I have to work on. I didn't allow a big inning; that's what I'm happy about.”

Chen ended last season with just one win in his last 12 starts, going 1-4 with just three quality starts in that span.

“He gave us a good chance to win,” Showalter said. “I'm proud of him. He threw the ball pretty well, all things considered. We'll take that. Scattered some hits. Three or four of them [were of] the cheap variety. I was proud of him. He did a nice job staying engaged in the game. No problem with his outing.”

Through three games this season, the Orioles are still looking for a quality start. The Red Sox chased Chris Tillman from the game on Opening Day, raising his pitch count by fouling pitches off. On Wednesday, a pair of two-run home runs foiled right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez.

The Orioles bullpen kept the game close, tossing 31/3 scoreless innings, including two scoreless frames from left-hander Zach Britton in the eighth and ninth innings.

But the Orioles couldn't break through with a big inning against the Red Sox. And the separation was at times a matter of inches.

Trailing 3-0 in the fourth inning, Davis and Wieters both missed home runs by a matter of feet, hitting doubles high off the outfield wall.

Davis took a 1-0 fastball from Red Sox left-hander Felix Doubront (1-0) to straight-away center field, deep enough that he went into a home run trot, but the ball hit off the top of the center-field wall and Davis had to slide into second for a double.

Three batters later, Wieters, who had three hits on the night, connected with a pitch that hit off the right-center-field wall by the grounds crew shed for a double that scored Davis.

Delmon Young then went the opposite way with a long RBI single that hit off the right-field fence to score Wieters and cut the lead to 3-2.

“It's going to come together,” Hardy said of the offense. “I think CD squared up a couple balls, which was nice to see. Jonesy, Wieters got a bunch of hits, so I think, yeah, the offense will come around. I don't think we're worried about it. It's nice to see some good swings, for sure.”

The Red Sox used station-to-station baseball against Chen (0-1). In the second inning, a leadoff single by Xander Bogaerts preceded a single by Daniel Nava that advanced Bogaerts to third. Will Middlebrooks' 6-4-3 double play ball plated Bogaerts and the game's first run.

Boston took advantage off another leadoff runner in the third on David Ortiz's two-out RBI single. Ortiz lifted a fly ball to shallow left field that fell in front of a diving Nelson Cruz, allowing Jackie Bradley Jr., — who led off the inning with a single — to score from first base.

In the fourth, Bogaerts opened the inning again with a single and scored following back-to-back one-out singles by Middlebrooks and Ross.

After the Orioles (1-2) cut Boston's lead to 3-2, Chen couldn't get out of the sixth after allowing a two-out RBI double to Bradley.

When the Orioles next came up, Jones missed a two-run homer by just a few feet as it swung wide of the left-field foul pole. Davis scored on a wild pitch by right-handed Brandon Workman, but the Orioles stranded the tying run on second base when Jonathan Schoop bounced into an inning-ending forceout.

eencina@baltsun.com

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