While the resurgent Orioles -- fresh off their first winning August since 1997 -- have been knocking down barriers and eclipsing new feats seemingly every game, on Wednesday night, Baltimore was reminded just how tough a turnaround can be. A night removed from their first series win at Fenway Park since 2004, the O's were denied their chance of a sweep, instead falling 6-1 to the Red Sox, as a sold-out crowd of 37,729 watched Boston avoid what would have been the Orioles' first three-game sweep in Beantown since 1994.
But instead of praising the effort of taking a tough series "W" -- their fifth in the past six series -- the Orioles were left lamenting what could have been, showcasing a sentiment often missing in previous seasons.
"We wanted to get that sweep," said center fielder Adam Jones. "We came close. And we won the series, so that's something to be proud of. But the thing is we could have won the season series [on Wednesday] -- instead of [finishing] 9-9, we could have gone 10-8. To me -- it's my third year here -- that would have been the first time we won against them. That would have meant a lot."
"I don't think anyone here is satisfied with two out of three," said starter Kevin Millwood. "I'm not."
But Millwood did little to keep that from happening, allowing six earned runs over five-plus innings to mark his shortest outing since a one-inning start in Detroit on July 5 -- which prompted a move to the 15-day disabled list. The early scores, including a three-run homer to David Ortiz, put the Orioles in a hole they'd never climb out of en route to loss No. 91.
Wednesday's defeat also dropped the plucky O's squad to 29-18 under manager Buck Showalter, and it marks just the second time since 1998 that the Orioles have either tied or won the season set with the Red Sox.
"The want-to was there," Showalter said of the Orioles' loss, which is just their third road defeat in their past 12 contests. "You learn from it and move on. It doesn't mean that you've won two games and that's good enough. I don't get that feeling at all, that it was, 'OK, we won the series, and we'll just play with house money.'"
Red Sox starter John Lackey made it look that way, holding the Orioles to two extra-base hits over seven innings of one-run ball and snapping a career-high four-game losing streak in the process.
"You really have to tip your hat to their pitching, which I don't like to do," Showalter said.
"I've seen Lackey a lot in the American League West, and if he goes to his offspeed stuff early in the game, you usually have a little chance. But you could tell the first couple of innings, it was going to be a challenge, because he felt real good about himself."
Millwood wasn't as complimentary, admitting that he just "didn't pitch well" in a two-homer outing which ups his total to 30 on the year, second in the AL only to Tampa Bay's James Shields (33).
"Millwood was bringing a lot of offspeed pitches," said Oritz, who also tagged the O's veteran with an RBI single. "It seemed like he wasn't comfortable throwing his fastball like he always [does]."
Still, when the Orioles reflect on this three-game set, they will take solace in keeping in stride with their divisional foe, in a stadium they had won just three of 20 games at the start of the series.
"It's the closest we've played [them] since I've been here," said Jones. "And as tough as we played them all year. And that's something to be proud about."
And perhaps something to build on, as the organization continues to look to 2011 with the cautious optimism that the Orioles will start to emerge within the AL East.
"It's going to take winning for long stretches for guys to learn how to do it," Millwood said. "This organization has been down for a while, it finally seems like it's starting to get on an upswing. Hopefully the way we are playing now can carry over to next year for these guys."
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.