Orioles 3
Red Sox 2

David Ortiz held the bat at either end as he walked slowly away from the plate. For a second or two, he looked ready to snap it over his knee in disgust.

Ortiz instead kept walking, somehow keeping his frustration bottled up after striking out to end the eighth inning Thursday night.

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The Orioles beat the Red Sox, 3-2, with Ortiz going 0 for 4 and leaving three men on base. On a night when the Sox could have dimmed the playoff hopes of a persistent division opponent, Ortiz continued to struggle.

Big Papi is hitless in his last 22 at-bats, his robust batting average of .327 falling to .310. Ortiz’s last hit was Aug. 18.

The Sox who had a four-game win streak snapped, were 1 for 10 with runners in scoring position. The Sox also missed a chance to gain a game on the Rays, who lost earlier in the day.

After Chris Tillman allowed two runs over seven innings, the Sox threatened against Tommy Hunter in the eighth. Jacoby Ellsbury singled and stole second despite a pitch out.

Shane Victorino, who had earlier hit a home run, struck out. Dustin Pedroia also failed, hitting a fly ball to right field. But Ellsbury advanced on the play.

With two outs, Orioles managed Buck Showalter went to Brian Matusz to face Ortiz. The lefthander missed with a curveball then struck out Ortiz, who swung and missed at three consecutive fastballs on the outside corner.

Ortiz is 1 for 19 in his career against Matusz with 11 strikeouts.

The Sox had another chance in the ninth against closer Jim Johnson when Daniel Nava (3 for 4) led off with an infield single that was misplayed by the pitcher. But Jonny Gomes, the walk-off hero on two other occasions this season, grounded into a double play.

Johnson then struck out Jarrod Saltalamacchia for his 41st save. Tillman (15-4) struck out eight without a walk. The Sox fanned 11 times in all.

A day after he fouled a ball off his right foot and left the game, Ellsbury was back in the lineup. He singled to start the game and took second on a wild pitch.

Tillman struck out Victorino, got Pedroia to foul out, and struck out Ortiz.

The Sox took a 1-0 lead in the second when Nava doubled down the line in left and scored on a two-out single to right field by Stephen Drew.

Tillman blanked the Sox over the three innings that followed, allowing one hit.

Sox starter Jon Lester retired six of the first seven hitters he faced and took a 1-0 lead into the third inning. Danny Valencia, who played 10 forgettable games for the Red Sox last season, led off with a double into the corner in left field.

When Brian Roberts grounded to second, Valencia took off and was thrown out at third by an alert Pedroia.

But Lester couldn’t take advantage of the break. He walked Nate McLouth then left a two-seam fastball over the plate that Manny Machado hammered off the wall for a two-run double, his 45th of the season.

Adam Jones followed with a broken-bat infield single to shortstop. With two outs, Matt Wieters drove a ball into the gap in right field that Victorino ran down to save two runs.

Lester stumbled with two outs in the fifth. He walked Jones before Chris Davis drove a fastball off the wall for a run-scoring double.

Lester retired the final four batters he faced and left after six innings and 112 pitches. He allowed three runs on five hits with three walks and four strikeouts.

Lester once regularly dominated the Orioles. But he has allowed eight earned runs on 18 hits over 18 innings this season.

Tillman started the sixth inning with a 3-1 lead. Victorino cut into that with a solo homer to left field on a 3-and-1 fastball left over the plate.

It was the third homer of the series for Victorino and his seventh this month. That matches his career high for a month last accomplished in July of 2008.

Nava, who has reached base safely in 35 consecutive starts, doubled with two outs. But Gomes grounded to second to end the inning.

Gomes was not in the original lineup. The Sox planned to start Mike Carp at first base but he was scratched after batting practice with a sore left shoulder. Nava shifted to first base and Gomes was inserted to play left field.

Matt Thornton worked around two singles in the seventh inning by getting Davis to pop up to left field. Rookie Brandon Workman, pitching for the first time since Aug. 19, started the eighth inning and walked J.J. Hardy with one out.

Pedroia ranged far to his left and made a sliding stop to take a hit away from Nick Markakis. Wilson Betemit pinch hit for Valencia and grounded to first as Workman kept the deficit at one run.