Late heroics not enough as Sox fall to Orioles in 10
Jarrod Saltalamacchia came to the plate with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning Tuesday night with the Red Sox trailing the Baltimore Orioles by two runs.
As David Ortiz took a lead off first base, Saltalamacchia told himself to do whatever he could to keep the game going.
“Just a single, anything at all,’’ he said.
“I just wanted to make some good contact.’’
He did, lining a fastball from Orioles closer Jim Johnson just over the wall in left field. The dramatic home run tied the game.
“We were excited about that,’’ manager Bobby Valentine said.
But the happy buzz at Fenway Park died quickly. Alfredo Aceves gave up two runs in the 10th inning and this time the Orioles held on for an 8-6 victory.
Baltimore arrived having lost seven of its last eight games. But the Orioles had 15 hits off Jon Lester and three relievers.
Aceves walked Mark Reynolds to start the 10th. After a sacrifice bunt from Steve Pearce, singles by Ronny Paulino, Ryan Flaherty, and Endy Chavez gave the Orioles another two-run lead.
Aceves (0-3) has allowed six runs in his last seven innings, raising his earned run average to 5.02. Johnson (1-0) retired the side in order in the bottom of the 10th. The Sox fell to 13-15 at home.
The home run was the 11th for Saltalamacchia, five fewer than he had all last season. He was 3 for 4 with a walk and is hitting .279 on the season with a .918 OPS. The catcher has become one of the key offensive players on the team, especially with Adrian Gonzalez struggling and the outfield in flux.
“I don’t think it’s anything unexpected. He came to us with a big name, no pun intended,’’ Lester said.
Saltalamacchia fell behind Johnson 1-and-2, then fouled off three straight pitches before driving a high fastball off the top shelf of the wall. The umpires ruled it a home run, a call that stood after a video review.
“I didn’t think it was going to go out,’’ Saltalamacchia said. “It’s too bad it wasn’t to win the game. But at least we had a chance.’’
Poor pitching and defense put the Sox in a position to need late-game heroics.
Lester faced the Orioles 19 times in the first six years of his career and was 14-0, the longest streak to start a career against Baltimore.
But the big lefthander has not been nearly as dominant this season. He did not have a decision vs. Baltimore May 4 at Fenway and again Tuesday night. He has allowed seven runs (five earned) on 13 hits over 12 innings against the Orioles. Not bad, but well below his standards.
Lester went six innings Tuesday night, giving up four runs, two earned, on eight hits and a walk. He struck out five.
A defensive mistake helped cost Lester two runs in the third.
Chavez singled with one out. Roberto Andino then grounded a ball up the middle that should have been a double play. But shortstop Mike Aviles bobbled it then couldn’t recover in time to get even one out.
J.J. Hardy’s fly ball to center sent Chavez to third. Singles by Adam Jones and Matt Wieters gave the Orioles a 2-0 lead.
Baltimore starter Jason Hammel blanked the Sox for four innings. Aided by some sloppy defense by the Orioles, the Red Sox scored twice in the fifth.
Daniel Nava grounded to first base for what looked like an easy out. But the ball rolled under the glove of Reynolds for a single. Aviles followed with a single to left.
Scott Podsednik bunted toward first base. Reynolds fielded the ball and fired to third, too late to get Nava. The ball got away from Tolleson and Nava scored.
Dustin Pedroia, back in the lineup after missing six games with an injured right thumb, hit a fly ball to center field just deep enough to score Aviles and tie it at 2.
In the sixth, Wieters doubled, took third on a bunt single by Reynolds, and scored on a sacrifice fly to center by Pearce.
The Sox scored twice off reliever Troy Patton in the sixth inning to take a 4-3 lead.
Ryan Sweeney walked with one out. Singles by Nava and Aviles scored him. Podsednik’s sacrifice fly to center put the Sox ahead.
Lester and the bullpen couldn’t hold as the Orioles scored three runs on five hits in the seventh.
Chavez, who came in hitting .120, led off with a sharp single to left. Lester was at only 99 pitches but Valentine called in Scott Atchison, believing he had the bullpen set up to lock the game away.
“I thought we were going to be able to cruise it home,’’ Valentine said.
Reliable all season and riding a streak of 19 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings, Atchison faltered badly this time.
Andino and Hardy singled to score Chavez. Jones grounded back to the mound and Atchison went to second for one out. Jones beat the throw to first.
Wieters was intentionally walked and Valentine went to Matt Albers. Reynolds singled to score Andino and Jones scored on a Pearce single.
“Any time you come out of a game it’s tough,’’ Lester said. “But our bullpen has been great. Just a little hiccup tonight, no big deal. Next time we’re in that situation, they’ll pick me up.’’