The Orioles went toe to toe with the first-place Boston Red Sox on Monday and Tuesday night, but Wednesday's series finale at Camden Yards always figured to be a mismatch.
And it was.
What else could anyone have expected from a game that featured struggling left-hander Wade Miley and Cy Young Award candidate Chris Sale? Miley got just one out in his previous start and Sale arrived in Baltimore needing just 13 strikeouts to reach 300 for the season.
So the matchup played out pretty much as expected and the Red Sox skunked the Orioles, 9-0, to complete the sweep before an announced crowd of 16,906.
The Orioles (73-80) have been held without a run since the fifth inning Monday, going scoreless over their past 26 innings, on the way to three straight losses and six in seven games.
"It's pretty obvious he's one of the best pitchers in the game,'' manager Buck Showalter said of Sale, "and coupled with the fact that we're not operating on all cylinders offensively — that's for sure — you end up with a shutout."
Miley (8-14) made it through the Red Sox lineup without giving up a hit through three innings, then did what a lot of Orioles pitchers have done over the past few weeks. He came unglued as soon as the Sox hitters got to see him a second time.
Mookie Betts and Deven Marrero each hit two-run homers in the fourth inning and Miley allowed a pair of one-out walks in the fifth before manager Buck Showalter had seen enough. By the time reliever Mike Wright completed the inning, Hanley Ramírez also had a two-RBI night and Miley was charged with six runs on four hits and four walks.
"He started off well,'' Showalter said. "Just the second time through the order, he wasn't really getting the ball where he was getting it earlier."
Miley didn't have a whole lot to say about his 14th loss of the season. He had pitched well over a seven-start span from late July through the first week of September, but has allowed 12 runs in his past 4 2/3 innings.
"Anytime you're getting your [butt] kicked, it sucks,'' Miley said. "You don't know where to put it. It's been that way all year."
Wright did not pitch poorly after Miley. Ramírez greeted him with a two-run double, but Wright settled down to give up just a single and a walk over the next 2 2/3 innings. Left-handed pitching prospect Tanner Scott came on in the eighth to make his major league debut, and allowed two runs on two hits and a walk while striking out one in one inning. Jimmy Yacabonis allowed the final run in the ninth.
Meanwhile, Sale (17-7) did pretty much what you would expect when the major league leader in strikeouts faces a strikeout-prone lineup. He gave up just four hits — two each by Adam Jones and Trey Mancini — and struck out 13 over eight innings on the way to his 17th victory of the year.
He struck out the last batter he faced, Ryan Flaherty, to become only the second pitcher in Red Sox history to reach 300 strikeouts. Pedro Martínez, who struck out 313 batters in 1999, was the other.
It was the 18th time this season that Sale struck out at least 10 batters in a game.
Davis has cold glove: First baseman Chris Davis has proven himself to be a flashy defender, but he has had a tough week with the glove. His error in the fourth inning was his third in a span of six games, which is particularly surprising when you consider that he had made only five errors all season before Sept. 14. It must have something to do with the time of year, because Jones had a similar three-error week earlier this month.
Hardy starts: Well, J.J. Hardy didn't just start at shortstop; he showed why he has long been one of the most dependable middle infielders in the majors. He made a terrific leaping catch to rob Dustin Pedroia of a bases-loaded hit in the third inning and spun around to double Sandy León off second base, bailing Miley out of a jam. Hardy also handled several other chances flawlessly and turned another inning-ending double play in the sixth.