O's 'pen falters in finale vs. Sox

O's 'pen falters in finale vs. Sox

BOSTON -- One day after declaring the low point of his team's season, Baltimore manager Dave Trembley saw the waters rise again. The Orioles carried the stigma of some recent blowouts into Wednesday's series finale and used an emergency starter to take an early lead, but they saw their patchwork bullpen give the game up late in a 5-4 loss to Boston.

The Orioles shut out the Red Sox for six innings on Wednesday, but the home team began to stir in the seventh. Boston got two runs in that inning and tied the game on a one-out triple by Mark Kotsay in the eighth. Baltimore managed to strand him at third, but Boston used two hits and an error in the ninth to send the Orioles to their sixth straight loss.

"If there had been a wager on the table before the game today," said Trembley, "and I had said we would have a 4-0 lead going into the seventh after losing five straight on the road and playing at Fenway, I think people would've thought I was walking a fine line of talking out of my head. Those are facts. You can't ever underestimate anything in this game.

"Our guys came out today and expected to win and played to win. It just so happens it didn't work out that way."

In this case, it worked out that the Orioles took two tough calls and had nobody experienced to work the ninth. Aubrey Huff was called out on a close fielder's choice at third base in the eighth, and catcher Ramon Hernandez struck out on a pitch that appeared to be well off the plate in the ninth. Hitting coach Terry Crowley was ejected in the ensuing argument.

Baltimore sent Jim Miller out to pitch the ninth, and he made his second big league appearances in a highly difficult setting. Alex Cora led off with a single, and Crisp laid down a perfect cue-shot bunt that bounded off the foul line and back into play. Miller came off the mound to field the next bunt, but he threw the ball wide of third base to end the game.

Miller (0-1) had recorded two crucial outs in the eighth, but his error proved to be the difference.

"I think if I make that throw like I should make it, I have a real good chance of getting him," he said. "It's tough, but I felt a lot more relaxed, a lot more comfortable out there than I did the night before. I was very pleased with the way I threw the ball today. The first bunt hits a cleat mark and kicks fair. It's just the nature of the game. That stuff happens."

Baltimore's rotation was already in tatters when it arrived at Fenway Park, and the staff took another shot when the Orioles (64-75) elected to skip ace Jeremy Guthrie's turn in order to rest his ailing shoulder. That meant reliever Lance Cormier had to make a start on short notice, and Trembley said before the game that he was hoping to get three innings.

Cormier gave him that, holding the Red Sox (81-58) to two hits and keeping them from pushing a single runner into scoring position. And Dennis Sarfate picked up where he left off, pitching three scoreless innings to get the Orioles deep in the game. Baltimore had allowed at least 10 runs in four of its past five games, making it seem even more unlikely.

"I was able to spot my fastball and just work off that. I got some good results and some defensive plays out there," Cormier said. "The No. 1 starter's gone, and it's a tough situation we're going through. I thought our bullpen did a good job."

"We pick each other up," added Sarfate. "That's what the bullpen is about, that's what starters are about. They go deep into the game and sometimes we blow their lead. And sometimes they don't go deep and we've got to pick them up. It's one of those things you've just got to do. I was able to help the team out. Cormier did a great job. Everyone is pitching a little tired."

The Orioles got a run in the first inning on a two-base error by Crisp and lengthened the lead with a three-run rally in the fourth. Luke Scott doubled in one run in that inning and scored on a two-out single by Guillermo Quiroz. But the Red Sox refused to go away, striking against Jamie Walker for two runs in the bottom of the seventh.

Rocky Cherry went on to allow most of the damage in the eighth, courtesy of two extra-base hits. Dustin Pedroia doubled to put two runners into scoring position, and Kotsay tripled to push both of them across the plate. After the game, both Walker and Cherry -- who were charged with two earned runs each -- took responsibility for the way the game ended.

"It was just a bad road trip," said Walker. "We beat ourselves a lot, I guess, pitching-wise. Today, we just didn't get the breaks. We just didn't win the game. You saw the game, the way it ended. It's kind of tough when it's Sept. 3 and you've got to start your whole bullpen when you don't have anybody in the Minor Leagues to come up and start for us."

"I feel responsible a lot for this loss, because everybody did their job, and I felt that I didn't do mine," Cherry said. "I felt like I wasn't locating my fastball, my slider. I didn't feel like I had command of anything.

"I just felt like I was trying to compete without my best stuff. You still have to get the job done. It's no excuse."

And so, the Orioles will slink back to Camden Yards with six straight losses, and sweeps in three of their last four series. Baltimore has lost 11 of its last 12 games and will attempt to get back on track after Thursday's off-day.

"We knew it was going to be a tough road trip with these guys, and Tampa in first place," said Huff. "We've got a lot of young guys up here learning on the job. There's going to be a lot of lumps, and there's going to be some peaks and valleys with that. When you go young, you've got to just keep playing the guys. That's the only way they're going to learn."

Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.