While the Red Sox bullpen entered Friday on its best run of the year, having allowed just two runs in 28 innings (0.64 ERA) over 10 games, it picked the wrong opponent against whom to play chicken. After all, the only team that had outpitched the Red Sox bullpen during that stretch was an Orioles team that had a 0.43 ERA over that span and a major league-best 1.73 mark for the year.
And so it was that while the Red Sox relief unit did some sterling work in shutting down Baltimore from the eighth through twelfth innings, a falter by Franklin Morales in the 13th allowed the Orioles to claim a 6-4 win in 13 innings. A Chris Davis RBI single to right scored Matt Wieters with the go-ahead run, and a sac fly by Mark Reynolds (who homered earlier against Sox starter Jon Lester) led to the final margin of victory.
Though the Orioles offense finally broke through in the 13th, it was Baltimore's bullpen that proved the decisive force in the game. After starter Wei-Yin Chen was touched for four runs in five innings, the bullpen locked down the next eight innings without permitting a run. Matt Lindstrom (1 inning), Pedro Strop (2 innings), Luis Ayala (2 innings) and Troy Patton (2 innings) held the fort until Baltimore broke through. Once the Orioles took the lead, Jim Johnson closed it out with a scoreless 13th, keeping intact his 0.00 ERA.
The Sox bullpen had an opportunity to secure a win with a clean relay, but the group faltered out of the gate.
Lester, coming off his best start of the year (seven scoreless innings against the White Sox with seven strikeouts), could not repeat his dominance. Twice entrusted with early leads -- a 1-0 advantage in the bottom of the second and a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the third -- he gave the runs back immediately in both frames. Though he looked brilliant at times, his location was inconsistent, and Lester ended up allowing three runs on five hits and three walks in six innings. He struck out just two, matching a season low.
Still, at the time of his departure, Lester was in position to win after the Red Sox pushed across a run in the bottom of the fifth on a Will Middlebrooks double to left-center and Dustin Pedroia's RBI single up the middle. But, given a 4-3 lead in the top of the seventh, Vicente Padilla let it slip away. Mark Reynolds led off the inning with a double and advanced to third when Adrian Gonzalez fielded a grounder and fired late across the diamond to put runners on the corners with one out. Robert Andino then walked to load the bases, and a J.J. Hardy double play grounder pushed the game-tying run across.
The Sox bullpen then recorded five shutout innings -- an effort most notable for an extraordinary effort by Alfredo Aceves, who pitched 2 2/3 innings and struck out six -- but Morales' stumble in the 13th dropped the Sox to 11-14.
In defeat, Gonzalez snapped an 0-for-18 stretch with three singles in six at-bats. Pedroia also went 2-for-5 with a double, and Cody Ross went 1-for-4 with a triple, a sac fly, a run and a walk.