The Orioles provided a handy explanation for their season Friday, when they dropped a 3-1 game to the Red Sox. That score represented Baltimore's sixth consecutive loss to Boston and sunk the Orioles to 7-27 against the top two teams in the division and 20-40 overall against American League East teams.
Baltimore, entrenched in the middle stage of a rebuilding program, has consistently found itself outclassed by New York and Boston. The Red Sox, in fact, are on their way to their second-highest winning percentage in the series history against the Orioles and have outscored them 48-21 over their past six games.
"We didn't win the game and I'm not happy we lost. But gosh darn it, it was a baseball game," said Baltimore manager Dave Trembley. "We competed. We didn't give it to them. They earned it. ... The guys are playing their butts off. There's no excuses. They're pretty darn good. We just didn't win. That's all."
The Orioles (60-87) didn't get much in the way of offense on Friday, settling for five hits and one earned run against Boston starter Clay Buchholz, who had no-hit them in September 2007. Luke Scott provided the home team's only run on a homer, and Buchholz (6-3) stranded two runners on base in the fourth.
Baltimore starter Jeremy Guthrie pitched relatively well, but the Red Sox (87-59) reached him for nine hits and three earned runs. Jason Bay scored the game's first run and drove in Boston's second on a solo home run. Boston added another run in the sixth, and Guthrie (10-15) fell to 0-3 against the Sox this year.
"I don't feel like I've played them more competitively. I feel like they've absolutely had my number," said Guthrie, who is 1-5 against Boston for his career. "I think they've had our team's number for three years. I can't think of a time where we've gone in there and really played well against them. Absolutely, they have our number."
Baltimore has been held to five hits or less in each of the past three games and saw a key member of the lineup shut down before Friday's game. Left fielder Nolan Reimold was sent to the 15-day disabled list with fraying of the left Achilles tendon, and he joined center fielder Adam Jones in having an abbreviated season.
The Orioles also traded first baseman Aubrey Huff and catcher Gregg Zaun, sapping the lineup of a few capable bats. But when asked about the talent gap, the Orioles profess to be closer to Boston than the record shows.
"It certainly makes it tough when you lose three really good Major League offensive players. For sure," said leadoff man and two-time All-Star Brian Roberts. "But you can't look at it just on a tonight basis. We've hung in there, we've scored some runs, we've played OK. But yeah, it makes it tougher when you lose three regulars."
"It's not so much a talent thing. Obviously, every Major League team has talent," added Guthrie. "It's just getting over that hump of being able to play well against a good team. And pitch well. That's where it has got to start for us. And I haven't held up my end, and for the most part, it's been tough for the entire staff and the bullpen as well."
Guthrie rang up a high pitch count in the early innings but was able to scratch and claw out of a couple jams. The right-hander stranded two runners in the first inning and worked into the sixth on fumes. Guthrie gave up two hits in the sixth inning and dealt with a visit from pitching coach Rick Kranitz before allowing one final hit.
After the game, Guthrie said he would've preferred to get a chance to work through the jam without assistance.
"I think a pitcher has a ticker. Maybe you don't need so much of the visit," he said. "It's kind of like the red flag that, 'Hey this is your last hitter.' I'm going to come out and not tell you, but kind of let you know. But, ultimately, the responsibility lies with me, and, unfortunately, I have been one pitch or one hitter short on many occasions this year."
Seven of Baltimore's 14 losses to Boston have been by two runs or less. The Orioles can at least take solace in keeping things close against the Red Sox, even if they'd rather avoid the conceit of a moral victory. And when asked if he felt his team has been competitive, Trembley answered quickly and succinctly.
"If you've seen the games, I'd think that's a given," said Trembley. "To answer your question, I'd say yes. There have been a lot of competitive games. I remember the last time Guthrie pitched here. He had a lead going into the seventh or eighth and they had two outs and he gave up a home run to [Kevin] Youkilis. He lost the game by one run. Earlier in the year, we had a 7-0 lead there and lost. We've lost a lot of close games. A lot of close games."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.