The Orioles followed a no-hitter with a nailbiter Sunday, when they never led but were never truly out of the game. Baltimore fell behind by three runs but steadily chipped away at the lead and had most of the late-game opportunities in a 3-2 loss to Boston.
The Orioles dropped to 30-36 under manager Dave Trembley and 1-11 since his status was confirmed for next season. It's been a wild two weeks for Baltimore, and the ride will continue with a three-game series in Florida against Tampa Bay starting Monday.
"I guess we're seeing history. I don't know if that's a positive," said Aubrey Huff. "It's just a game, but at the same time, you've got pride. You want to play well and you want to win. It's like everything we've got going right now is just working against us."
The Orioles got a relatively strong pitching performance from Daniel Cabrera on Sunday, but they couldn't support him with much offense against Boston starter Jon Lester. Baltimore stranded three runners in scoring position and had two runners cut down on the basepaths, including one that helped kill a rally in the top of the fourth inning.
The road team trailed by one run at that point and loaded the bases on two walks and a clean single. Lester (3-0) got one out on a line drive to second base and coaxed a fly ball to short right field from the next batter. The catch was made easily, and when Miguel Tejada tried to score from third base, he was cut down handily on a throw to the plate.
"We had the bases loaded and nobody out and didn't score," said Trembley after the game. "I thought that was the biggest opportunity that we had. We had a chance to knock Lester out of the ballgame and we didn't. He was walking a tightrope. He was walking people, giving us scoring opportunities. We got his pitch count up.
"We had everything going for us. We had the table set, and we got nothing with the bases loaded and nobody out. That came back to haunt us late in the game."
Boston scored the next two runs -- one on a home run and one on a sacrifice fly -- to open up a 3-0 lead against Cabrera. The hulking right-hander worked through the sixth inning and allowed five hits. He walked four batters and struck out seven, stranding two runners each in the first and fifth innings. When Cabrera left, it was a 3-1 game.
"It's difficult, because every time I go out there I'm trying to win the game for my team," he said. "This year, I've got a lot more losses than I've ever had [at this point of the season]. There's nothing I can do -- just pitch and pitch."
The Orioles made another baserunning blunder in the sixth that helped kill a rally. Just when Baltimore seemed to be gathering momentum against Lester again, Kevin Millar was cut down at second base on a cutoff play. Tejada scored on a single, but when Millar rounded second, he was caught off guard by a throw from third baseman Mike Lowell.
"It happened so fast," said Millar, Baltimore's first baseman. "You run the bases and you take one step off and they just fire it behind you. That's like going from first to second in Little League and standing on second. In that situation, they're just firing the ball home and it gets cut off, thrown to second and boom -- you're out. Bad baserunning play."
Baltimore (59-76) crept closer in the seventh on a solo homer by Ramon Hernandez and had a perfect opportunity in the eighth against Hideki Okajima. With shadows starting to cover the field, Okajima gave up a leadoff double and a ground ball that pushed the potential tying run to third base. After that, he struck out Millar and Huff in succession.
"I didn't do a very good job of making the ball get up in the zone," said Millar. "I swung at a bad pitch. ...I have to do the job there and get that runner in. That's a big at-bat at a big time of the game. I have to do a better job."
"I didn't really get anything to hit that whole at-bat," added Huff. "He worked me in with a fastball. I had curveball in the back of my mind the whole time and he never used it. He threw me a 3-2 splitty -- lefty-on-lefty splitty, I haven't seen that much. It was just a good pitch. It looked so good to hit and just dived off the table."
Boston (62-55) set Baltimore down in order in the ninth inning to take a 2-1 series win, but the road team could take pride in rebounding after Saturday night's no-hitter and 10-run outburst. The Orioles' first hit came in Sunday's second inning, and it allowed the players and the coaches in the dugout to breathe a sigh of relief.
"After you get no-hit, just going out there and getting a hit on the board helps," said Huff. "The last thing you want to do is go four or five innings with no hits, and then everybody's going to start pressing."
"This was a big game for us," Trembley said. "I don't care what the standings are and I don't care how many we lost. ...Today was an opportunity to win a series and do it in Fenway Park. We had the opportunity and didn't make the most of it."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.