Orioles still can't solve Red Sox's Lester

Orioles still can't solve Red Sox's Lester
The Orioles' Brian Roberts reacts to a called third strike that ended the fifth inning with two men on base and Boston leading 4-0. It was the only threat the Orioles mounted against Jon Lester, who is 8-0 against the Orioles in 10 career starts. (Baltimore Sun photo by Gene Sweeney Jr.)
The frustration manifested in the sixth inning Monday when manager Dave Trembley and second baseman Brian Roberts took turns yelling at plate umpire Jerry Layne from the top step of the Orioles' dugout.

Layne's called third strike on Roberts that ended the bottom of the fifth inning and the lone threat against Boston Red Sox starter Jon Lester drew their ire, but there were plenty of other aggravations for the Orioles in their 4-0 loss before an announced 36,548 at Camden Yards.

There were the 14 Red Sox base runners through the first six innings, each one loudly cheered in the Orioles' ballpark. There was Boston right fielder J.D. Drew's bid for the cycle, which came up just a double short on the two-year anniversary of Aubrey Huff's doing it against the Los Angeles Angels.

But the overriding source of frustration was a continued inability to mount any offense against Lester, who seems to be automatic every time he takes the mound against the Orioles. With his seven shutout innings Monday, Lester improved to 8-0 with a 2.18 ERA in 10 career starts against Baltimore.

"Jon Lester's pitching a great game, and tip your cap to him," said Trembley, who had words with Layne on at least two separate occasions and was clearly still agitated after the game. "I thought he had a plus going for him, too. The strike zone was definitely in his favor tonight, and that's the way it was. That was established early. It was a big strike zone and he took advantage of it. I can't wait for the day when we get that in return."

Asked to elaborate, Trembley said: "I don't think it's anything other than the fact that Lester's a real good pitcher and he got the benefit of a strike zone that was in his favor tonight. It could have been Pete Smith out there or whoever the hell it was."

Lester (7-6) allowed five hits, struck out eight and walked none, allowing only one Oriole to get into scoring position. The Orioles (34-42) put runners on first and second with two outs in the ninth, forcing All-Star closer Jonathan Papelbon into the game. However, the threat ended when Jason Bay made a diving catch in shallow left field on Matt Wieters' blooper, securing Papelbon's 19th save and the fourth shutout against the Orioles this season.

Lester became the first pitcher to win his first eight decisions against the Orioles since Todd Stottlemyre did it from July 6, 1989, to June 28, 1993. Toronto Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay has nine straight victories against the Orioles.

In two starts against the Orioles this year, Lester has turned in 14 scoreless innings, surrendering only nine hits and striking out 17. In five career starts at Camden Yards, Lester is 3-0 with a 1.69 ERA.

"I think he knows he's had success against us, and whenever a pitcher has success against a team, it seems like they turn it up a little," Huff said. "There's no doubt he's got great stuff. You look at his numbers and you wonder how he gets hit. You see some video of him and it looks like he leaves some pitches over and he gets hit. Against us, we just don't get anything to hit."

Said Adam Jones: "His numbers aren't a joke. He does it to almost everybody. The guy is good."

Jones provided the Orioles' lone highlight, extending over the center-field wall and robbing Kevin Youkilis of a home run. But by then, the Orioles already trailed 4-0 after the Red Sox teed off on rookie starter Jason Berken, who allowed eight hits, walked two and hit two in five shaky innings. Drew led off the game with a triple and scored on Dustin Pedroia's single, and then hit a two-run homer in the fourth.

"Berken's got some guts," Trembley said. "He ain't afraid. He got an education tonight facing a real good team and a team that knows how to approach every at-bat at the plate. … They squared up mostly every fastball that he threw that was in the middle of the plate."

Berken is 0-4 with an 8.51 ERA over his past five starts and is winless since beating the Toronto Blue Jays in his major league debut May 26.

"Every outing for me is a learning experience," he said. "The last thing I am going to do is sit here and feel sorry for myself. It's tough. It's not easy to pitch in the big leagues. I will continue to work hard and get ready for the next start."