The Orioles learned long ago that you can give the Boston Red Sox's powerful lineup only so many chances. But they got another reminder of that last night when they botched three routine defensive plays, two costly, in the decisive 13th inning and failed repeatedly to get a clutch hit that would have resulted in an uplifting win.
A throwing error by Melvin Mora and Mike Lowell's tie-breaking single in the top of the 13th sent the Orioles to a gut-wrenching, 5-2 loss before an announced 46,199, the second sellout crowd at Camden Yards this season.
"Anytime you lose, it doesn't sit with you very well," Orioles manager Dave Trembley said. "But obviously if you're going to get beat in this game, you'd rather have them beat you and not have it happen the way it did."
With one out in the 13th, Manny Ramirez, who remains one home run shy of 500 for his career, hit a bouncer right at Mora. He had plenty of time, but he fired a high throw that hit the top of Kevin Millar's glove at first base. Ramirez sprinted to second and then scored when Lowell ripped Chad Bradford's pitch to left field. Before Ramirez batted, Orioles catcher Ramon Hernandez dropped a routine pop-up hit by the Red Sox's David Ortiz for an error, although Ortiz was then retired by Jamie Walker on a groundout.
"We got so many chances. We could have come back and won the game, but I didn't play defense," Mora said.
Before Lowell's hit, the teams had been scoreless since the fourth inning, when Aubrey Huff's solo homer tied the score at 2.
With runners on second and third and two outs later in the 13th, shortstop Freddie Bynum threw the ball away on Coco Crisp's routine grounder, allowing two more Red Sox to score on the Orioles' third error of the inning and giving All-Star closer Jonathan Papelbon even more breathing run.
Papelbon converted his 15th save, giving the Red Sox (33-24) a victory in the opener of the four-game set and just their second road win in their past 11 games away from Fenway Park. The Orioles (26-27) lost their second straight in a game in which they left 14 runners on base and were 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position. The Orioles had the potential winning run on second base in the ninth, 10th and 12th innings but couldn't get him in.
In the bottom of the ninth, Bynum hit a two-out single and then swiped second base, his first steal of the season. Manny Delcarmen walked Brian Roberts on a 3-2 pitch but got Mora to ground out to third to end the Orioles' threat.
The Orioles again had runners on first and second with two outs in the 10th, but Craig Hansen fanned Ramon Hernandez with a 3-2, 97 mph fastball.
Hernandez came up again in the 12th with a chance to win the game, but Mike Timlin got him to fly out to the warning track in left field with the bases loaded.
"We were one hit from winning the game, and I would have liked to have that run earlier in the game that I really thought was coming to us and it didn't happen," Trembley said. "But that's not sour grapes. That's just the way the game is."
Orioles starter Daniel Cabrera put the team in a hole by giving up two first-inning runs. But he didn't allow anything else over seven innings, consistently making a big pitch when he needed it to get the Orioles out of jams. He surrendered six hits, walked two and hit a batter, turning in his ninth quality start over his past 10 outings.
"Both teams pitched outstanding," Trembley said. "I thought Cabrera was up somewhat early in the game and made some adjustments, got the ball down later in the game. I thought it was real good for him."
The Orioles had an opportunity to break the 2-2 tie in the sixth inning. Josh Beckett got the first two outs of the inning on strikeouts. But he issued three straight walks to load the bases and his pitch count had swelled to 109 when Adam Jones stepped to the plate. However, Beckett got ahead of his quickly and then threw a 2-2, 95 mph fastball past the Orioles center fielder to get out of the inning.
Beckett's 10th strikeout ended his evening. He allowed two earned runs on four hits and three walks over six innings.