BOSTON – In an energized visiting clubhouse late Friday night, an Orioles team that had lost five straight games – many in humiliating fashion – sounded as if it had gotten the wakeup call it badly needed.
The players talked excitedly about Friday's benches-clearing incident, which resulted in David Ortiz and Kevin Gregg trading wild and errant punches, and vowed that it would serve as a galvanizing moment.
Less than 24 hours later, they went out and looked like a lifeless bunch, getting totally dominated by a pitcher who has made a habit of getting booed off the mound in his home ballpark. John Lackey pitched 6 2/3 scoreless innings and exited to a standing ovation as the Boston Red Sox again beat the hapless Orioles, 4-0, in front of an announced 38,205 at Fenway Park.
"I thought we could use the energy from last night," said Orioles center fielder Adam Jones, who went 0-for-3. "We just didn't."
In his first start in more than two years, Alfredo Simon was serviceable before tiring in the fifth and possibly reinjuring his hamstring, but the Orioles never got anything going against Lackey, who entered the night with a 7.47 ERA, including a 9.47 mark in seven home starts.
"The key was we didn't do much against Lackey and it seems like a lot of the American League has," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "So hats off to him, but we expected a little bit of offensive output tonight."
Lackey (6-8) allowed just three hits and a walk while striking out seven. He also hit two batters – Nick Markakis in the sixth and Derrek Lee in the seventh – the latter drawing a warning for both teams from home plate umpire Jeff Nelson, who was obviously reacting to what happened the previous night.
"If Simon had hit two guys, he would have been ejected," Showalter said. "They used to do warnings before a game and they didn't, so it kind of gives somebody a free pop."
Unlike Friday, there was no further incident, except the Orioles losing for the sixth straight time and the 20th time in the last 26 games. The Orioles (36-51) are just 1-9 on this road trip, which comes to an end Sunday before the team heads into the All-Star break. They've been outscored 24-7 in this series and 54-18 during the six-game skid.
The Orioles' only victory of the night was that they did not allow an opponent to reach double digits in runs for just the second time in six games. However, they did allow double-digit hits for the seventh straight contest in falling to the Red Sox for a fifth straight time.
"You need to get a win going into the All-Star break," Jones said. "I was telling [catcher Craig Tatum], I've been coming here for four years and I can't really count how many times that we came to Boston and we've beat their [butt]. We need to. We can. It's just a matter of doing it. We need to beat their [butt] one time."
When you consider what happened the previous two nights and the fact that Simon was making his first start since April 14, 2009 – a game in which he blew out his elbow and was gone after just 1 1/3 innings – it was hard to gripe too much with the big righty's performance.
He got off to a rocky start, allowing three of the first four hitters that he faced to load the bases with one out in the bottom of the first inning. That set the stage for Ortiz, who received a standing ovation as he walked to the plate. But Simon got the designated hitter to ground into an inning-ending double play, and he proceeded to escape jams in the second and third inning.
"He couldn't hold that offense down forever, but at the same time, I'm proud of him," Showalter said of Simon. "He was impressive. We were going to take him around 90 [pitches]. He ended up around 78, not including the intentional walks. He gave us a chance to win."
Following Jacoby Ellsbury's one-out triple in the fifth, Simon was one batter away from getting out of another jam. He got a big second out, fielding Dustin Pedroia's comebacker and then tagging the speedy Ellsbury after a rundown, but he said he heard a pop in his hamstring in the process.
Simon has already been on the disabled list once this season with a left hamstring strain.
"I just tried to get the guy on third base out and my hamstring, I felt something pop," said Simon, who allowed three runs on eight hits and three walks over 4 2/3. "And after that I walked a couple guys and then tried to throw strikes. I think everything felt good, but we didn't score any runs."
After an intentionally walk to Adrian Gonzalez, Kevin Youkilis broke the scoreless deadlock with an RBI double that lunging left fielder Nolan Reimold couldn't corral. Two batters later, and after Ortiz was intentionally walked, Josh Reddick made it 3-0 with a two-run double.
The Orioles managed to bring the tying run to the plate in the seventh, but Daniel Bard relieved Lackey and got Reimold to pop out in the infield.
The Orioles went 0-for-4 with men in scoring position and only had seven baserunners all night.