The Orioles, now just 1-12 in games that decide the winner of a three-game series, didn't go down easily and twice looked poised to stage a comeback, including in the bottom of the ninth inning. Facing their final three outs and with Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon on the hill, Felix Pie and Matt Wieters delivered a pair of singles and pinch-hitter Corey Patterson's sacrifice bunt put runners on the corners for Cesar Izturis. But Papelbon struck out Izturis swinging on a high fastball and got rookie Josh Bell to chase on a full count to seal the game.
"[I was] just trying to get a good pitch to hit," said Bell, who twice expanded the zone, helping Papelbon avoid a walk. "There's not much else you can do against those guys; they're closing games for a reason."
When asked if Bell and Izturis -- the team's No. 8-9 batters, respectively -- were who Showalter wanted up in that situation, the O's manager responded, "As opposed to who?"
Even with roster expansion, Showalter, who made it clear a banged-up Patterson could only bunt, felt his best options were defensive specialist Izturis and Bell, who went 1-for-4 but is averaging one strikeout for every 2.8 at-bats.
"Izzy has had some clutch hits for us, he is in the game, in the flow there," Showalter said of the decision. "It's a good experience for Josh, too. I am sure you are aware that a lot of people have trouble against Papelbon in the ninth inning. I don't think they should feel like he was picking on them."
What Showalter has stressed is the importance of fundamentals since his takeover, the sort of "little things" which went missing for portions of Thursday's game, including during a decisive five-run second inning.
Adrian Beltre sent Bergesen's first pitch of that frame into the left-field stands to give the Red Sox an easy score, and a walk and a single brought pitching coach Rick Kranitz to the mound for a brief meeting, hoping to settle things down. Bergesen responded by getting Daniel Nava to hit an infielder grounder, but the ball scooted under first baseman Ty Wigginton's backhanded attempt to score another run.
"When the ball was hit, I thought it was going to kick up, probably mid-thigh and the ball just stayed down," Wigginton said of his error. "I didn't get the hop that I was expecting."
No. 9 batter Ryan Kalish followed with an RBI double and leadoff batter Marco Scutaro walked to send the seventh batter of the inning to the plate. The Orioles had bullpen action before Bergesen could record the first out in the second, with three runs already in and runners on second and third. Bergesen allowed a career-high five walks and also set a new career high in pitches thrown (114), but several times avoided what looked to be an early exit.
"You got to put it behind you," Bergesen said of the five-run frame, only two of which were earned runs. "I was able to do so and chew up some more innings, not to put that stress on the bullpen. That was really the positive for me."
There wasn't much positive for the Orioles' offense regarding Red Sox starter Daisuke Matsuzaka's first-half of the game. Matsuzaka, who skipped his last start because of back soreness, was dominant early, retiring nine of the first 10 batter he faced and not allowing a hit until Nick Markakis' fourth-inning double.
The O's finally broke through with a four-run sixth, with Bell singling and scoring and Dice-K fumbling Wigginton's comebacker, allowing Brian Roberts to score. Wieters sent the fourth pitch he saw ricocheting off the left-center-field fence to score two runs and knock Dice-K from the game for good.
"He was featuring just about all fastballs early, two-seamers and four-seamers and threw a little cutter. After that, we made him use a little more in the repertoire," Showalter said of the adjustments against Dice-K. "He is very methodical, very slow. And you have to not let him make you get anxious. You can't let his tempo get you out of whack."
Reliever Scott Atchison took over and sent Nolan Reimold down on strikes to end the inning, and O's reliever Rick VandenHurk allowed the Red Sox a crucial tack on run in the seventh.
After walking Ortiz and hitting Beltre with a pitch, the runners advanced on Jed Lowrie's deep fly ball, prompting Showalter to pull VandenHurk for reliever Matt Albers. Albers induced a grounder from Mike Lowell that should have been an automatic double play. Instead, Bell's throw from third to second was on the wrong side of the bag, and Wigginton couldn't scoop Roberts' relay that followed, allowing Ortiz to score.
"That's what we brought Albers in the game," Wigginton said of the botched double-play attempt. "He came in and did his job and we didn't get it done."