BALTIMORE — The Red Sox lost 90 games in 1966, three years before man walked on the moon. Young sluggers Tony Conigliaro and George Scott had good seasons for manger Billy Herman before he got fired, but the pitching staff had a rough time of it.
In the years since, the Sox fielded plenty of teams that disappointed a generation of fans. But until Sunday, none had lost 90 games.
Zach Stewart pushed the Sox deeper into despair, getting hit hard again in a 6-3 loss against the Orioles.
“We haven’t had a good season and every loss hurts, all 90 of them,” said Bobby Valentine, who is likely three games away from losing his job.
Stewart allowed five runs before being pulled out of the game in the third inning. The skeleton Sox lineup — Mauro Gomez batted fourth and Danny Valencia fifth — was unable to overcome that kind of deficit and the Sox lost their fifth straight.
At 69-90, the Sox have the third-worst record in the American League and are 23 games out of first place.
Nate McLouth led off the first inning with a home run for Baltimore. Three more hits, one an RBI single by Jim Thome, made it 3-0. The Orioles were on their way to a sweep before a crowd of 41,257 at Camden Yards.
Stewart, who last pitched on Sept. 12 in a Triple A playoff game, retired only seven of the 15 batters he faced.
“Those guys are basically on the gas pedal right now and they’re doing the job,” he said. “That was one of those deals where they beat us all series. They had their foot on our throats.”
Stewart, a 26-year-old righthander, was obtained from the White Sox in June for Kevin Youkilis. The Sox must have liked something about him, but it hasn’t been apparent what that could be in two starts.
In games against the Angels and Orioles, Stewart has allowed 14 earned runs on 17 hits over 5⅔ innings. Counting his time with the White Sox, Stewart has surrendered 14 home runs over 35⅔ innings this season.
In 14 career starts in the majors, Stewart is 2-9 with a 7.51 earned run average.
“Zach was a little rusty, I guess,” Valentine said. “He’ll have better days for sure.”
Cody Ross had a solo home run and Daniel Nava a two-run shot for the Sox off Joe Saunders (3-3). The Orioles stayed in a tie at the top with the Yankees in the American League East and clinched a wild-card spot when the Angels lost Sunday night in Texas. It’s the Orioles first trip to the postseason since 1997.
With the loss, the Red Sox are guaranteed of receiving one of the top nine pick picks in the amateur draft next June. That is important for reasons beyond the opportunity to add a premium player.
Under the rules of the new collective bargaining agreement, the first 10 picks in the draft are protected from being surrendered as compensation for signing a top-tier free agent.
Now, if the Sox were to sign such a free agent, they would give up only their second-round choice.
Free agents requiring compensation will be those who receive a “qualifying offer” from their teams. That is likely to be approximately one year and $13 million.
The Sox took a train to Manhattan and will start a three-game series against the Yankees Monday night. The Sox are 5-10 against their rivals this season . . . Clayton Mortensen allowed one run in 3⅓ innings of relief. He has a 2.93 ERA over 40 innings and earned a look next season. “He’s been terrific. He’s very competitive and he throws pitches that are tough to time,” Valentine said . . . The Sox finished 5-13 against the Orioles . . . The Sox were 7-19 in September a year after their infamous 7-20 September collapse . . . The Sox are 26-47 since the All-Star break and 104-127 since the All-Star break in 2011 . . . The Sox had their rookies dress up for the trip to New York. Most teams have themes for this sort of thing and plan it out for maximum effect. The haphazard Sox had most of the rookies wear cheerleader outfits with Will Middlebrooks dressed as Dorothy from the “Wizard of Oz.”Peter Abraham can be reached at email@example.com.