BOSTON - The Baltimore Orioles desperately wanted to sweep the Boston Red Sox. After winning two of three in Toronto and the first two against the Red Sox, a third win would have been wonderful.
Instead of a win, the Orioles ran into John Lackey.
Lackey allowed just two hits as Boston beat Baltimore 3-1 before 36,436 at Fenway Park on Thursday night.
The loss put the Orioles (81-71) two games behind Tampa Bay and Texas in the wild-card race. They also trail Cleveland by 1 ½ games.
On Friday, Baltimore begins a vital four-game series against the Rays before returning home to finish the season with three against Toronto and the Red Sox.
"At this point, you need W's. Lots of them," second baseman Brian Roberts said. "Winning two is better than losing two, but it's certainly not about winning series. It's about winning as many games as possible in the last, what do we have, 10 left? Go out and try and win 10 and see what happens."
Roberts had one of two walks issued by Lackey (10-12), who also struck out eight.
Lackey didn't give up a hit until there was one out in the seventh when Adam Jones hit a long home run to left, his 32nd. J.J. Hardy's eighth-inning single was the only other hit by Baltimore.
"Who cares about getting two out of three? At this point in time, winning the series means nothing," Jones said. "We need wins is all. Good job getting the series if this was June, but it's September. We need wins."
Chris Tillman (16-7) had a trying first two innings, allowing five hits and three runs.
Stephen Drew hit his 13th home run of the year, a two-run shot and Dustin Pedroia's RBI single scored Jackie Bradley, Jr. with the third run.
Tillman allowed just two more hits as he completed seven innings, walking two and striking out eight.
"That's the way these games go at the end of the season. You've got to be on top of it from the get-go all the way through. I made some mistakes and they made me pay," Tillman said. "I was trying to make adjustments all night. I was a little out of whack the whole game."
The Orioles have lost their last seven games when trying to go 12 games over .500.
"Our guys aren't satisfied with it," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said of winning the series. "Mathematically over a long season it bodes well, but we're in a different spot. Every game is either a gained opportunity or a missed one. If someone said, 'Would you have taken two out of three in Toronto and two out of three here before you left?' I don't think our guys ever had that mentality. It's just, let's go play a game and see."
NOTES: Darren O'Day, who rejoined the team for Wednesday's game, admitted to being frightened when fingers on his right hand became numb.
"We didn't know what it was. The medical staff did a good job of looking at the most serious stuff first - blood clot, stuff like that - and we got right on top of that. That was all clear, which was good. Then, it just kind of became a mystery. Stayed persistent and figured out what it was and it feels better now," O'Day said.
O'Day said the fingers had been bothering him for several weeks, and it was finally diagnosed as compression of a nerve in his wrist
"Obviously, you don't want to think anything serious. It's a long life. We have a long life. We play baseball for maybe a quarter of that, at the most. You've got to worry about the important stuff first," O'Day said.
He threw one pitch to Boston first baseman Mike Napoli in the eighth, and got him to ground out to third base.
Showalter was holding off a decision on Saturday's starter. It was between Miguel Gonzalez and Bud Norris. Gonzalez left Sunday's game with a strained right groin and Norris missed a start with soreness in his right elbow.
Showalter said that it was possible he'd have to juggle the rotation because one of the pitchers might be forced to leave the team due to a personal situation.