BOSTON -- The duo of Jamie Walker and Chad Bradford has filled in admirably since the Orioles lost closer Chris Ray to an elbow injury. But the pair's promotion to later-game situations has created a glaring hole in the middle of the Orioles' bullpen.
The Boston Red Sox exploited it last night after Orioles starter Steve Trachsel spent six innings dodging Red Sox scoring opportunities.
Trying to protect a two-run lead in the seventh inning, Paul Shuey and John Parrish allowed all four batters they faced to reach, and Bradford couldn't clean up their mess. Kevin Youkilis hit a go-ahead double off Bradford with the bases loaded and no outs, and Boston's four-run seventh propelled the Red Sox to a 5-4 victory over the Orioles in front of an announced 36,649 at Fenway Park.
"I feel like a real jerk for screwing up a great outing by Trachsel," Shuey said. "I thought he really battled through. We had a lot of positives in tonight's game, It's just a real shame to lose."
Miguel Tejada hit a bases-empty homer off Hideki Okajima in the eighth inning to cut the Orioles' deficit to one, but they couldn't score in the ninth against All-Star closer Jonathan Papelbon, who struck out Brian Roberts to finalize his 24th save.
The Orioles (50-56) lost for just the third time in 11 games and will send Jeremy Guthrie to the mound this afternoon to try to take the series.
For six innings, it looked like they might have been playing for a series sweep.
However, the key at-bat in changing their outlook came when Shuey walked Julio Lugo on five pitches to open the seventh. He then gave up a single to Dustin Pedroia to put runners on first and second. With David Ortiz striding to the plate, interim manager Dave Trembley brought in the left-handed Parrish.
But Parrish (2-2) made a poor pitch and Ortiz crushed it off the Green Monster for a double that cut the Orioles' lead to 3-2.
"The biggest thing that bothers me is putting Parrish in that position where he [has to] face Big Papi with nobody out," Shuey said. "If I get my job done, it's two outs and Big Papi's up. And I think there's a good chance JP can strike him out in that situation. It's all about everybody getting their job done. I was the key ingredient to not getting it done tonight."
Trembley had Parrish intentionally walk Manny Ramirez to load the bases, and then brought in Bradford with still nobody out. Bradford got ahead of Youkilis, who then lined a double into the right-center-field gap. Jason Varitek added an RBI single to extend Boston's lead to 5-3.
The bullpen implosion ruined a quality outing for Trachsel, who went six innings and allowed one unearned run, his best outing since late May. It was an important start for Trachsel, whose future in the Orioles' rotation is cloudy because of his recent poor pitching and the emergence of top pitching prospect Garrett Olson, who is 2-0 with 0.43 ERA in three starts for Triple-A Norfolk since his demotion. In his previous six starts entering last night, Trachsel was 0-3 with a 9.22 ERA. He hadn't gone as many as six innings since June 13.
The Orioles shopped Trachsel aggressively before Tuesday's trade deadline, but found no takers, even with a dearth of starting pitching on the market. The Orioles undoubtedly will try to pass him through waivers and then trade him if he clears, which is likely. The Seattle Mariners were one of the teams that had lukewarm interest, and they had a scout at Fenway Park last night.
Despite surrendering no earned runs, Trachsel didn't dominate, allowing 10 base runners in six innings, five on walks. But he frequently pitched out of trouble, as in the first inning when he got Ramirez to hit into a double play with runners on first and third and one out.
"The pace was a little slower than I wanted, but it's a tough lineup," Trachsel said. "They've got a lot of guys that have given me a tough time in the past. I just really wanted to make sure I trusted every pitch and was doing everything I needed to do to make sure I executed."
The Orioles gave Trachsel a 3-0 lead after two innings.
Nick Markakis hit a bases-empty homer off Julian Tavarez in the first, his 11th of the season and his first since July 13. The Orioles added two more runs in the second on RBI doubles from Chris Gomez and Roberts. But they squandered a key opportunity in the fifth when Tavarez got Tejada to bounce into an inning-ending double play with runners on first and third and one out.
An extra run would have certainly helped in the later innings. With Trachsel's evening over after throwing 109 pitches through six innings, Trembley had limited options to try to get the final nine outs while holding a two-run lead.
Walker and Bradford were available only to get a couple of outs, as Walker had pitched in four of the past five games and Bradford had thrown 17 pitches a night earlier. Danys Baez was available after missing Tuesday's game because of a stomach virus, so he was the designated closer for the night.
That meant Trembley had to rely on Shuey and Parrish, but they didn't deliver.
"You got to mix and match guys," Trembley said. "You can't overextend them, but also you got to try to do what you got to do to win the game. What it does is gives guys other opportunities to pitch. Sometimes it works out for you, sometimes it doesn't."firstname.lastname@example.org