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Orioles 9, Red Sox 6 (17 innings)

Orioles beat Sox at long ball

Jones 3-run homer in 17th is crushing blow

By Nick Cafardo
Globe Staff / May 7, 2012
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The most commendable aspect of Boston’s 9-6, 17-inning loss to Baltimore Sunday at Fenway Park was also the most damning.

The effort was all out.

Nothing wrong with that, but what did it produce? Another loss.

And therein lies the frustration, a team trying its best with $78 million of payroll on the disabled list may not have enough to beat good teams.

And the Orioles, whether they remain atop the American League East standings, are a good team.

The long game, which started at 1:35 p.m. and lasted 6 hours 7 minutes (the longest Sox game since July 9, 2006 - a 6-5 19-inning loss to the White Sox), ended in complete frustration. It came down to designated hitters from both teams pitching.

Baltimore’s DH, Chris Davis, who had struck out five times in seven at-bats (he made it 0 for 8 against Boston DH Darnell McDonald in the 17th), pitched two scoreless innings while McDonald, who had come on to run for David Ortiz in the eighth inning, allowed a game-winning three-run homer to Adam Jones in the 17th.

The game featured 18 pitchers - the most since 1918 to appear in a game at Fenway.

Sox starter Clay Buchholz couldn’t get out of the fourth inning and allowed at least five earned runs for the sixth straight start. Manager Bobby Valentine ran through seven relievers before turning to McDonald. Adrian Gonzalez, who went 0 for 8, volunteered to pitch. Valentine said he wouldn’t let him.

With two taxing extra-inning games in the series, which was swept by the Orioles, the Boston bullpen is in shambles and the struggling club - 11-16 after losing five out of six at Fenway - likely will have to make a move or two to get through its game Monday night in Kansas City, Mo.

The 13 1/3 innings Sunday marked the most by a Sox bullpen since they went 14 innings vs. Cleveland April 11, 1992.

How devastating was Sunday’s loss?

“I have no idea,’’ Valentine said. “I believe in these guys. They’re tough. They were making plays the entire game. If they can’t appreciate the effort that bullpen gave them today . . . as a whole group . . . and take that forward I’d be surprised but I don’t think I’ll be surprised.’’

The silver lining was the super bullpen.

Andrew Miller, Matt Albers, Vicente Padilla, Alfredo Aceves, Franklin Morales, Rich Hill, and Scott Atchison combined for 12 1/3 innings and gave up just six hits and one unearned run (off Padilla in the eighth) before McDonald was summoned.

Valentine stayed away from Clay Mortensen, who pitched 3 1/3 innings Saturday and couldn’t use Jon Lester, who had thrown his side session before the game.

“Everyone’s pitching great, it’s just that I don’t know if anyone can pitch [Monday],’’ Valentine said. “I think a few of the guys can. I’ll have enough. I pushed them to the limit. I think every guy did so well and we’ll see how they bounce back.’’

Boston appeared to have the game won in the 16th when Davis came on. He struck out Jarrod Saltalamacchia swinging and got Will Middlebrooks to fly to right, but Marlon Byrd reached on an error by third baseman Wilson Betemit. Mike Aviles doubled to left field and third base coach Jerry Royster sent the speedy Byrd.

Jones retrieved the ball in deep center, made a perfect relay to shortstop J.J. Hardy, who threw a strike to Matt Wieters, who blocked the plate, made the tag on Byrd, and held on to the ball after impact.

“I thought I had it,’’ Byrd said. “They just made a great play. Great throws. I thought I had a good jump and thought I could make it.’’

But the play was symbolic of the plight of this Sox team.

“We played hard,’’ said Dustin Pedroia. “We just have to find a way to win. That’s it.’’

The problem was Buchholz, who allowed two solo homers to Hardy and a three-run blast to Robert Andino to put the hosts in a quick hole.

Buchholz did not blame anything but his own issues. He said he’s been trying to figure out things for six weeks and hasn’t been able to solve them.

Valentine is right that the pitchers did a yeoman’s work after Buchholz. And he was happy to see his team come back after the hole Buchholz dug.

“I went around to the bullpen pitchers [after the game] to tell them I appreciated their effort,’’ Valentine said.

The Sox could do very little against Orioles starter Tommy Hunter, who had a 6.52 ERA in six career starts vs. Boston and a 9.00 ERA in three starts at Fenway. Ryan Sweeney knocked in Aviles (double off the wall) with a single in the fourth to put Boston on the board.

Then came the highlight to that point - Middlebrooks’s grand slam that tied the score, 5-5, in the fifth.

“At that point, that was the highlight of my career,’’ Middlebrooks said. “But that was a long time ago.’’

Middlebrooks also made what could have been a costly throwing error in the 14th, but the Sox turned one of their six double plays to get out of the inning. Middlebrooks also didn’t initially run hard on his fly to left in the 11th that dropped in for single and easily could have been a double. He thought the ball was going foul.

Then there was the Saltalamacchia meltdown in the eighth.

The Sox catcher dropped a foul pop by Jones on the first base side. Jones subsequently reached on an infield hit on a ball Padilla probably should have fielded. Jones stole second and advanced to third on Saltalamacchia’s throwing error. The Orioles scored the go-ahead run (6-5) on Mark Reynolds’s double to center.

Saltalamacchia made amends with a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the inning, scoring McDonald.

On and on it went.

McDonald came on in the 17th.

He walked Betemit, who was caught stealing by Saltalamacchia. But Hardy stroked his fifth hit of the game - a double to left. After Nick Markakis walked, Jones blasted a 1-1 pitch over the Monster.

Nick Cafardo can be reached at cafardo@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.

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