It was another chance to win a series, and another opportunity lost as the Orioles' 6-4 defeat to the Boston Red Sox on Thursday night featured the kind of play that has been mostly absent under the Buck Showalter regime.
There was first baseman Ty Wigginton's error that contributed to the Red Sox's five-run second inning off Brad Bergesen. There was the infield's failure to turn a double play in the eighth on Mike Lowell's ground ball, leading to an important Red Sox insurance run a half-inning after the Orioles scored four times off Daisuke Matsuzaka to get back in the game.
There were also the six walks, the one hit batter, rookie third baseman Josh Bell's harmlessly yet embarrassingly forgetting how many outs there were in the third inning, and the Orioles' 2-for-11 performance with runners in scoring position.
"To compete in this division, you are going to have to bring your best game to the field every day," said catcher Matt Wieters, the Orioles' hitting star with three hits and two RBIs. "We are going to have to be as fundamentally sound as we can, and today we weren't."
Still, the Orioles had a shot to win the game after Felix Pie and Wieters opened the bottom of the ninth with back-to-back singles off All-Star closer Jonathan Papelbon, who was brought on to protect a two-run lead.
Pinch hitter Corey Patterson, who was unavailable to do much else but bunt because of a sore neck, moved both runners up a base in exchange for the Orioles' first out. However, Papelbon fanned Cesar Izturis and Bell to end the game and pick up his 35th save.
Asked if he felt that the light-hitting Izturis and the rookie Bell were his best options in that situation, Showalter said: "As opposed to who? Izzy has had some clutch hits for us. He is in the game, in the flow there. It's a good experience for Josh, too. I am sure you are aware that a lot of people have trouble against Papelbon in the ninth inning. I don't think they should feel like he was picking on them."
Bell worked the count full before he swung at a 96 mph fastball that likely would have been ball four and brought Brian Roberts up to the plate with the bases loaded. Bell struck out twice and has fanned 40 times in 112 big league at-bats this season.
"Just trying to get a good pitch to hit," Bell said. "There's not much else you can do against those guys. They're closing games for a reason."
The loss before an announced 36,954 dropped the Orioles (49-85) to 1-12, including 1-7 at home, in games that decide the winner of a three-game series. They also fell to 4-4-1 in nine series under Showalter and 7-8 this season against Boston, who moved within 61/2 games of idle Tampa Bay in the American League wild-card race. The Rays will start a three-game series at Camden Yards tonight.
Bergesen saw his three-game winning streak come to an end and fell to 6-10 on the season. He went 3-0 with a 2.73 ERA in five August starts, but he struggled throughout his first September outing. Though just two of the five runs that he allowed were earned, Bergesen did surrender eight hits and five walks, and needed to throw 114 pitches to log 51/3 innings. Both the five walks and the 114 pitches were career highs.
Adrian Beltre started the second with a homer on Bergesen's first pitch of the frame. A run scored on Wigginton's error on Daniel Nava's ground ball, and rookie Ryan Kalish hit an RBI double. But the at-bat Bergesen really lamented was against David Ortiz with the bases loaded and two outs. Bergesen had just gotten back-to-back pop-ups to keep the Orioles' deficit at three runs, and he quickly got ahead of Ortiz. However, the Red Sox slugger lined an 0-2 pitch into left field for a two-run single.
"That was the one that really made me mad, or frustrated me the most, because I was ahead of him and I wasn't able to make that pitch to put him away," Bergesen said.
To his credit, Bergesen escaped jams in the third inning and again in the fourth, and managed to hang around long enough to get an out in the sixth inning.
"As much of a struggle as that one inning was for him, he gave us some pretty impressive innings after that," Showalter said. "A lot of guys throw in the towel there. That's good to see from him. He gave us a chance to get back in it a little bit."
The Orioles didn't have a hit off Matsuzaka until Nick Markakis' one-out double in the fourth. He was stranded, as was Wieters after his one-out double in the fifth. Seemingly in firm control of the game, Matsuzaka appeared to tire in the sixth, allowing hits to the first three batters he faced, including Markakis' RBI single. Wigginton drove in the Orioles' second run with a groundout, and then Wieters cut the Orioles' deficit to 5-4 by slamming a two-run double off the left-field wall.
"We did some things to get back in it, put some good at-bats together," Showalter said. "But you'd like to finish it off. That's where the satisfaction comes in."
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