On a day when hundreds of thousands lined up to cheer and salute and encourage athletes along a 26.2-mile route that runs right by the stadium, Clay Buchholz left the mound early Monday afternoon hearing nothing but boos from most of the 37,513 gathered inside Fenway Park.
As the city celebrated some of the world’s elite endurance runners in the 118th Boston Marathon, the Red Sox right-hander delivered his shortest start since September 2012 – registering only seven outs while surrendering six runs and putting his team in a hole even these pesky Sox ultimately couldn’t escape, losing 7-6 to the Orioles.
Boston put the tying run aboard in the seventh and eighth innings, then got the winning run on first with one out in the ninth, yet in coming up a hit short it was denied its first three-game winning streak of the season, and lost a chance to reach .500 for the first time since losing their home opener. Instead, they’re 9-11 after splitting a four-game set with Baltimore, and trail the division-leading Yankees by 2.5 games as their rivals come to Fenway for a series beginning Tuesday.
Barely 12 hours removed from Sunday night’s nailbiter, neither team had a hit in the first two innings Monday morning, but the Orioles opened the third with five consecutive singles, and by the time Buchholz recorded an out the Birds had a 3-0 lead. It was the bottom of the Baltimore lineup that got things started, as Steve Lombardozzi and David Lough were the first to reach, then – after third baseman Brock Holt failed to make a highly difficult catch of a foul pop near the first row of seats – Nick Markakis, Nelson Cruz, and Chris Davis all delivered RBIs.
Buchholz finally got an out, at the cost of another run, when Adam Jones hit into a fielder’s choice. But Steve Clevenger followed that with a run-scoring double to the right-field corner, and that brought Burke Badenhop to his feet in the Red Sox bullpen.
Seven pitches later, Badenhop was in the game. Buchholz failed to capitalize after getting ahead of Jonathan Schoop, 0-and-2, and Schoop eventually whacked a curveball off the base of the left-field wall. That single chased home Clevenger and sent Buchholz to the clubhouse.
His shortest outing since his final start of 2012 ended after 2.1 innings during which he allowed a walk, seven hits, and – because Badenhop induced a double play from the first man he faced – six earned runs.
“The first base hit, I just left a pitch middle," said Buchholz, whose ERA is 7.71 through four starts. "But up until the double I felt like I made some good pitches. Pitches that were off the plate and found holes. That’s the way it is. I’ve got to take it, but, yeah, pretty frustrating.”
The right-hander's velocity appeared to be diminished from where it has been in the past -- barely reaching 90 mph on his best fastballs -- but while noting that Buchholz's pitches looked "flat," manager John Farrell said there are no indications that the starter is injured.
“No," Farrell said. "He doesn’t speak of any. And in all the physical testing that we do with all of our pitchers, it doesn’t indicate any deficit.”
The Red Sox didn’t manage their first hit against Wei-Yin Chen until the fourth, when David Ortiz followed Dustin Pedroia’s leadoff walk with a hard single to right. The rally died quickly, as Mike Napoli struck out, then Jonny Gomes’ liner to shortstop became a double play when Pedroia slipped and couldn’t get back to the bag.
Though the Sox stayed on top of Chen, and started their comeback in the fifth. Xander Bogaerts walked. Daniel Nava, to that point 1-for his last-19, legged out an infield single. David Ross hit into a force play, but Jackie Bradley Jr. followed with a ground-rule double that hopped into the seats in right. Brock Holt brought Ross in with a sacrifice fly to center. Then Pedroia plated Bradley with a double down the third-base line.
That made it 6-3, while driving Chen’s pitch count up to 93 and knocking the southpaw from the contest after five innings. It was the third time in the four-game set that Boston’s patience prompted Buck Showalter to go to his bullpen before the end of the sixth, and after rallying from a 5-0 deficit for a walkoff win on Sunday night, Boston threatened to come back on Baltimore again.
David Ross homered in the seventh (his first of the year), then Mike Napoli did the same in the eighth (his fourth), though the Sox never got all the way even because the Orioles reached Craig Breslow for an insurance tally just prior to Napoli’s blast, aided by some shoddy Boston defense, and because they failed to fully seize a series of dangerous opportunities in the final three frames.
Ortiz grounded to second with two on and two out to quell a threat in the seventh. Then the Sox had men on first and second after Bogaerts and Nava both singled with one out in the eighth, but with Jonathan Herrera pinch-hitting the baserunners got their signals crossed.
After twice attempting a double-steal earlier in the at-bat, only to see those pitches fouled off, Nava broke for second on a 3-2 offering to Herrera. Bogaerts, though, didn’t go beyond his standard secondary lead – so when Herrera struck out, the rookie shortstop found himself stranded between second and third with no option to retreat, and was tagged out.
"A miscommunication," Bogaerts said. "I guess I saw something I didn't have to see. It shouldn't have been an out right there. We would've had two outs, first and second."
Instead the inning was over, so Boston went to the ninth trailing 7-5, and things got really interesting when Holt reached on an infield hit, Pedroia doubled off the left-field wall, and Ortiz was walked intentionally – despite representing the winning run. Orioles closer Tommy Hunter rewarded his manager’s faith, however, by getting both Napoli and Mike Carp on ground outs.
"Once they loaded the bases, with the two guys coming I felt like the momentum was quickly shifting into our favor," Farrell said. "[Hunter] made some good pitches."