Old bawl game
Rejuvenated Orioles wipe out nine-run deficit and wash away stunned Red Sox
BALTIMORE - By the time Jonathan Papelbon jogged in from the bullpen, the Red Sox celebratory mood had withered. Where once they were mocking each other for leaving the field with just two outs on the scoreboard, now there was tension on the field and in the dugout. The rain had ruined everything.
John Smoltz had been proving himself worthy of a spot in the rotation, a bounce-back from his nerve-filled return to baseball. But 1 hour and 11 minutes of precipitation had forced him out of the game, replaced by a series of arms that could do no right. Justin Masterson tried. Manny Delcarmen tried. Hideki Okajima tried. Takashi Saito tried. And so, with five outs to go in a game that had once had a nine-run spread, Papelbon entered with one out in the eighth.
The stakes were already raised - Papelbon came in with men on first and second and one out - and three runs already in. He looked the part by mowing down Felix Pie on a 95-mile-per-hour fastball before Nick Markakis stepped to the plate. Markakis had been 0 for 7 with four strikeouts against the Sox closer.
But Markakis lashed a fastball on the outer part of the plate for a double to the left-center gap, scoring two runs, giving Baltimore an 11-10 lead and the Red Sox their most demoralizing loss of the season.
“Just a tough night all around for us, for the bullpen from top to bottom, dealing with the weather and dealing with trying to pick each other up,’’ Papelbon said. “Nobody came into an easy situation tonight. You’ve got to give that team over there credit, though. They put the pressure on our bullpen tonight.
“We pretty much imploded. I can’t think of any better word to use. It’s just what happened.’’
The Orioles batted around in the seventh and the eighth innings, scoring five runs in each frame as they took out their frustrations on the majors’ best bullpen. Though the Sox put two runners on in the ninth, they couldn’t finish it out as Jason Bay struck out swinging to end the threat. The last time the Sox had coughed up a nine-run lead and lost was June 4, 1989, when they blew a 10-0 lead against the Blue Jays.
“We went through a period where I think we gave up 13 hits in two innings,’’ manager Terry Francona said. “We just had no answer. We went through just about everybody. There were balls everywhere. The majority of the balls fell in front of the outfielders . . . When you give up 13 hits - that was as bad as we’ve seen.’’
Especially for a bullpen that came into the game with the best ERA in the majors. As Francona said, “Just nothing we did worked.’’
“These types of situations, what our bullpen went through tonight, won’t happen very often,’’ Papelbon said. “We tried to battle through it and everybody just - it wasn’t our night.’’
And it had started out so well.
As Dustin Pedroia said, “It seemed like the first five innings before the rain delay, we beat up on them pretty good. Then we came back and they beat up on us pretty good. It was a weird game. It was a terrible loss for us.’’
Once the teams returned after that rain delay, Masterson had no trouble in dispatching the first six Orioles he faced. He struck out five of those six and the Sox extended their lead by a run in the seventh.
Then came the bottom of the inning. Then came the start of the meltdown. Masterson allowed five straight hits to open the inning. Aubrey Huff and Nolan Reimold singled, Luke Scott doubled, and pinch hitter Oscar Salazar hit a three-run homer. Matt Wieters then singled to end Masterson’s night, bringing in Manny Delcarmen.
“Missed my spots,’’ Masterson said. “About four pitches I missed my spots, and they struck them well. That was pretty much the entirety of what took place.’’
Then it was the rest of the bullpen, from Delcarmen to Okajima to Saito. One run was in, and the bases were still loaded in a suddenly tight, three-run game, as Saito came to the mound in the eighth.
Ty Wigginton’s sacrifice fly drew the Orioles within two runs, then Brian Roberts broke an 0-for-18 skid with a single down the left-field line. That closed the deficit to 10-9. In came Papelbon, but not to the rescue.
In the end it left the Orioles celebrating and the Sox stunned.
“That was probably the best game I’ve been involved in, right there,’’ Orioles manager Dave Trembley said. “That was absolutely tremendous. When you talk about playing all 27 outs, that’s tonight. Play all 27.’’
By the time the dark clouds had given way to light drizzle, it seemed little drama was left at Camden Yards. The fans started to leave in droves, even the Red Sox fans, whose vocal cheering had been loud and plentiful over the first couple of innings. The rain accelerated, perhaps matching the mood in the home clubhouse.
Hard to wait to finish out a game that’s already 9-1 in the middle of the fifth inning.
The Orioles, though, were more than happy they had, even after all the runs, after the home run by Kevin Youkilis that knocked Adam Jones’s glove out of the park and Jones out of the game, even after the five-run fourth inning that seemed to spell the end for the hosts. Even after everything.
“The good thing is the group of guys we have down there in the bullpen all can take this pretty well,’’ Papelbon said. “And understand that, hey, this is going to happen, but it’s not going to happen very often - and move on. We’re all professionals down there. You won’t see anybody hanging their head tomorrow, that’s for sure.’’