The Red Sox, although they weren't flawless, were even with the Baltimore Orioles after six innings. And then they fell apart in the final three frames, as the bullpen imploded to allow eight runs and nine hits. The final four were yielded by closer Jonathan Papelbon, proving the addage that closers struggle mightily in non-closing situations.
Two costly errors, including a muffed popup by Marco Scutaro led to Boston's ninth loss to the Orioles this season, ensuring that Baltimore would at least tie the season series. Clay Buchholz was sparkling despite going deep into counts with several batters. He and manager Terry Francona agreed that his high pitch count was attributed to more to Baltimore hitters getting pieces of good pitches rather than lack of control.
"I actually thought his stuff was really good," Francona said. "Real good arm speed on his changeups. He got himself into some deep counts. He misfired a couple of times to run a count to 3-2 but came back with real good pitches."
When asked about Buchholz steadfast consistency this season, Francona said, "This kid's about as legit as there is. His stuff is electric. His weapons continue to improve. There's not much not to like there."
Papelbon was not only shaky but he forgot there was one out on a grounder back to the mound and a runner on third. He casually fired the ball to first base, allowing Adam Scott to score the fourth run of the ninth inning with no throw to the plate.
"He really wanted the inning of work and needed it," Francona said. "And then they come out and are early-count swinging. Once the inning got going he started using his pitches but by that point he had already given up some damage."
Final, Orioles 9, Red Sox 1: Well the Red Sox are playing like they are playing out the string. The offense produced little, the defense was shaky, including a key error by Marco Scutaro, and the bullpen combined to allow eight runs in three innings. When do pitchers and catchers report?
Top of 9th, Orioles 9, Red Sox 1: Well Jonathan Papelbon was supposed to enter a meaningless game, throw a couple of fastballs and then get three quick outs. That didn't happen. He allowed four straight singles to beging the inning and was tagged for four runs in a shaky performance at best. His ERA rose to 3.92.
End of 8th, Orioles 5, Red Sox 1: Not much to see here, two fly balls and a pop out and the Red Sox are down to their last at-bat. Jonathan Papelbon enters the game.
Top of 8th, Orioles 5, Red Sox 1: Against right-hander Matt Fox, the Orioles out another run on the board after Adam Jones doubles, moves to third on Felix Pie's grounder and scores on Robert Andino's sacrifice fly. The fans are clearing out of Fenway and the offense looks like it's following them.
End of 7th, Orioles 4, Red Sox 1: The Sox put two runners on base for David Ortiz, who struck out looking against Michael Gonzales. It's been that kind of night for the office, which has six hits against Orloles pitching.
Top of 7th, Orioles 4, Red Sox 1: Scott Atchison took over for Clay Buchholz and took just four batters to let the game get out of hand. A single, fielder's choice, another single and a three-run homer by Ty Wigginton gave Baltimore a 3-run lead. Wigginton's shot was about 305 feet as he just cleared the fence in front of Pesky Pole. Atchison was yanked in favor of Hideki Okajima.
End of 6th, Red Sox 1, Orioles 1: The Sox waited until two outs to rally with a Ryan Kalish ground-rule double following a Jed Lowrie walk. But Brad Bergesen responded by striking out Daniel Nava looking to end the threat. Clay Buchholz is out of the after six innings with no earned runs. His ERA shrunk from 2.48 to 2.39. Scott Atchison is now pitching.
Top of 6th, Red Sox 1, Orioles 1: Buchholz was headed toward another scoreless inning when Felix Pie popped up to second base with Adam Jones at first base and two out. Marco Scutaro fluffed the ball for a costly error, allowing Jones to score and tie the game. No earned runs for Buchholz but his pitch count rose because of the error and he's probably done after 112 pitches.
End of 5th, Red Sox 1, Orioles 0: This is a pitcher's duel or more like the hitters have just lost interest. Bergesen retired the side with little resistance, the most suspense was a fly ball to medium center by Victor Martinez.
Top of 5th, Red Sox 1, Orioles 0: Buchholz has turned this into a solid outing, limiting his pitches over the past few innings (82 pitches through 5) and he stranded Brian Roberts at first base with two lazy fly balls from Nick Markakis and Ty Wigginton.
End of 4th, Red Sox 1, Orioles 0: Bergesen walked Ryan Kalish with one out, but Kalish saw first hand the immense skills of Mat Wieters, who throw a b-b to second base to catch Kalish stealing. Daniel Nava then walked, but Lars Anderson bounced to first and the Sox are clinging to a lead.
Top of 4th, Red Sox 1, Orioles 0: Buchholz was on his way to a neat inning by getting to easy grounders but then yielded a long triple to center from Felix Pie. Luckily, he faced overmatched Robert Andino, who struck out looking with a runner at third base for the second time tonight.
End of 3rd, Red Sox 1, Orioles 0: Brad Bergesen is pitching well besides a road bump in the second inning. After a Victor Martinez one-out single, David Ortiz lifted a deep fly ball to right center, caught at the warning track and Adrian Beltre flied out to right field.
Top of 3rd, Red Sox 1, Orioles 0: As previously stated, it's not a sharp outing by Buchholz, who has now tossed 55 pitches in 3 innings. And he walked Brian Roberts with one out and battled Nick Markakis for 9 pitches before striking out the right fielder. Luke Scott bounced to second again to end the inning.
End of 2nd, Red Sox 1, Orioles 0: The Sox received some fortunate bounces in the inning, as Jed Lowrie pegged a grounder that ricocheted off the left shoulder of Baltimore 2B Brian Roberts and rolled into medium right for a double. He scored on a Daniel Nava single to left. Lars Anderson followed with a looper over first base for another single, but Marco Scutaro struck out swinging.
Top of 2nd, Orioles 0, Red Sox 0: It's definitely not vintage Buchholz -- he's tossed 33 pitches through two innings -- but he stranded Matt Wieters, who led off the inning with a double off the Monster. After Adam Jones sacrificed Wieters to third, Felix Pie bounced to second and Robert Andino struck out looking. The Orioles lineup is not exactly imposing.
End of 1st, Orioles 0, Red Sox 0: Like Buchholz, Brad Bergesen gets two outs in five pitches and then walks Victor Martinez. David Ortiz ends the inning with a broken-bat grounder to second base against a shifted infield.
Top of the 1st, Orioles 0, Red Sox 0: After getting two quick outs, Clay Buchholz, who still has a shot at the ERA title, walked Ty Wigginton and then went 3-1 to Adam Scott before inducing a routine grounder to second base.
It's a beautiful 66 degrees at Fenway Park and the seats here are slowly filling in.