Baltimore did it again at Fenway Park on Wednesday night, beating the Red Sox, 2-1, before a sellout crowd of 37,243.
The Red 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.
Tonight marked the third time this season Beckett has lost a game in which he had a quality start.
“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.
One note of interest: 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. He believed, as did the front office, that outs were too precious to give up with the exception of a few late-game circumstances.
Darnell McDonald bunted to bring up Marlon Byrd in the seventh inning with runners on second and third with one out. 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.”
Valentine had sound reasons. But if McDonald is on the team to hit against lefties, why is he bunting? He had doubled off Chen earlier.
It'll be interesting to see whether the frequency of the sacrifices continues. That the Red Sox are using a lot of makeshift lineups probably contributes to the small ball.