Fenway again a bird sanctuary
Orioles tip Red Sox, improve to 5-0 in Boston this season
For years now, road-tripping Red Sox fans have poured into Camden Yards in Baltimore when their team is in town, turning the home park of the Orioles into a place where the home team feels like the underdog.
The Orioles have found a way to get revenge: winning at Fenway Park.
Baltimore did it again Wednesday night, beating the Red Sox, 2-1, before a crowd of 37,243.
The Orioles are 5-0 at Fenway this season and have won seven straight at the old ballpark going back to last year. In all, the Orioles have won 11 of their last 15 games against the Sox.
“It’s just coming in and playing,’’ Baltimore catcher Matt Wieters said. “You can get caught up in the history and the Red Sox and all the great players over there. But no matter what, you have to go out there and just play the game like it’s supposed to be played.’’
The Sox have lost three straight for the first time since May 8-10. They trail the first-place Orioles by four games in the American League East.
The Sox wasted a strong effort by Josh Beckett (4-6). He allowed two runs on five hits - all singles - in eight innings and struck out five without a walk.
Beckett refused to speak reporters after the game, the first time in recent memory a Red Sox starter has done that.
“Those are eight of the best innings we’ve seen all year,’’ manager Bobby Valentine said. “He was efficient with great stuff and all of his pitches. Damn shame.
“He deserved better. He gave up two runs in eight innings and we’ll take that every time out.’’
Perhaps Beckett’s silence was a commentary on his lack of recent run support. The Sox have scored only five runs in Beckett’s last three starts, leaving him with two losses and a no-decision despite going 22 innings and giving up eight earned runs.
“Josh pitched unbelievably well, he definitely deserved the win and unfortunately we weren’t able to back him up with the bats,’’ said Mike Aviles, who drove in the only run for the Sox. “He’s eating up innings and giving us a chance to win the ballgame. That’s what he’s done the last bunch of starts. It’s just unfortunate we haven’t been able to back him up like he’s backed us up.’’
The Red Sox managed only seven hits off lefthander Wei-Yin Chen (5-2) and two relievers. They left eight runners on base.
The run came in the third inning when Darnell McDonald doubled to the gap in left field in his first plate appearance since coming off the disabled list after missing 22 games with a strained oblique muscle.
Marlon Byrd singled to right, sending McDonald to third. Aviles then drove in McDonald with a sacrifice fly to right.
It was the 34th RBI for Aviles. Only David Ortiz, with 37, has more for the Sox.
Chen was challenged in the seventh inning when Adrian Gonzalez (dropped to sixth in the order for the first time since he joined the Sox) and Jarrod Saltalamacchia singled. McDonald bunted the runners over, bringing Byrd to the plate with one out.
The Red Sox have sacrificed 15 times already this season under Valentine, the most in the American League and their most at this point of the season since 2000. The team rarely bunted during the tenure of former manager Terry Francona, who believed, as did the front office, that outs were too precious to give up.
Valentine said he wanted Byrd at the plate with two runners in scoring position. Byrd was 15 of 40 (.375) against lefthanders since joining the Red Sox in April with seven strikeouts.
“All we need is contact for a tie game, a base hit for the lead,’’ Valentine said. “Marlon hasn’t struck out that many times against lefthanders.’’
With the Baltimore infield back and conceding a run, Byrd struck out on four pitches. Chen got him swinging a changeup.
“It was a real good pitch,’’ Byrd said. “I had two good at-bats [against Chen earlier]. It just didn’t happen for me. I was seeing the ball well, too.’’
Aviles was next and he popped to first base. That was the final batter for Chen. He allowed one run on seven hits without a walk and struck out four.
The Sox threatened against Pedro Strop in the eighth as Kevin Youkilis and Ortiz drew one-out walks. But Will Middlebrooks flied to center before Scott Podsednik grounded to first.
Podsednik had run for Gonzalez in the seventh inning. Jim Johnson finished the game for his 18th save.
Beckett retired the first nine Orioles in order on 29 pitches, 24 of them strikes. Only one ball was out of the infield. Through five innings, Beckett had faced the minimum and allowed one hit.
His dominance ended in the sixth. The last three hitters in the Baltimore order - Wilson Betemit, Ryan Flaherty, and Robert Andino - had singles to produce a run.
When Endy Chavez grounded into a force play at second base, Flaherty scored to give the Orioles a 2-1 lead.
Beckett allowed only one more hit, giving his teammates a chance to win. But the usually potent Sox offense was missing. Aviles, Dustin Pedroia, Youkilis, and Ortiz were 1 for 13 at the top of the order.
Pedroia is 0 for 7 with four strikeouts since missing six games with a thumb injury, his timing not having snapped back into place.
The Sox will try to salvage a game in the series Thursday night with Clay Buchholz facing Brian Matusz.
Peter Abraham can be reached at email@example.com.