The Orioles bade adieu to their most challenging opponent on Sunday, when they closed out their season slate against the Red Sox with a 9-3 loss. Baltimore went just 2-16 against Boston to set the second-worst mark in franchise history, and it was outscored 130-68 along the way.
"If you're going to compete with a team of that caliber, you've got to pitch up to their level and you've got to hit up to their level," said veteran slugger Luke Scott. "Considering the pitching that we've faced against them, we've held our own. Some days, they've absolutely shoved, and there are days we've gotten our hits. We've gotten our hits and we've scored runs, but you've got to match them on the mound. That's the first place you've got to start."
The Orioles (60-89) closed out the year with eight consecutive losses against Boston, a stretch that includes a pair of series sweeps at Camden Yards. The home team was rarely even close in Sunday's series finale, a function of the Red Sox (89-59) scoring six runs in the first three innings against starter Jason Berken.
Berken, who had won three consecutive decisions, saw himself continue a trend of difficult starts against Boston. The right-handed rookie faced the Red Sox four times this season and went 0-3 with an 11.66 ERA. Berken (5-12) faced 21 batters on Sunday and gave up 10 hits before Baltimore went to the bullpen.
"The quality of Berken's pitches just weren't there in the first inning," said Baltimore manager Dave Trembley. "He walked [Jacoby] Ellsbury to lead the game off, and just didn't have the quality of pitches he's had his last couple starts. Give up 10 hits in the first three innings, we get behind 7-0 -- that's not what you're looking for the last game of the series, and especially against a team that's played absolutely phenomenal against us."
Eight of Boston's starters had at least one hit, and seven of them scored at least one run. Ellsbury and Jason Bay both drove in three runs for the Red Sox, who held a 7-2 lead after four innings.
The Red Sox began turning the heat up in the first inning, as Ellsbury was able to steal second even though the Orioles had called a pitchout. Berken responded by walking Victor Martinez, and Boston loaded the bases on a single. Bay singled one run home, and Mike Lowell contributed a two-run single with two outs.
Boston added another run in the second inning, and Ellsbury drilled a ground-rule double in the third to push two runners home. That was it for Berken, and it was more than the Red Sox would need.
"That's one of the better lineups we face," said Berken. "They have a lot of guys that can beat you in a lot of ways. You make it harder on yourself by falling behind and leaving the ball up in the zone. You don't give yourself a chance to be successful, and that was the case today. A lot of deep counts, falling behind guys, leadoff walk to start the game. Right off the bat, you're in a tough situation. By no means did I help myself at all today."
Boston starter Daisuke Matsuzaka was the beneficiary of all that run support and kept the Orioles scoreless through the first three innings. Scott made it a 7-2 game in the fourth on a two-run home run. Matsuzaka (3-5) pitched into the sixth inning, allowing eight hits and three earned runs en route to the one-sided victory.
"It's hard, but we are where we are and we know where we need to get to," said Scott, who set a new career high with his 24th homer. "If you want to compete in this league, in this division, you have to have the pitching. You can have a great offense, as we did last year. But still, it's just not going to work. It's got to start with pitching."
The Orioles hadn't won less than three games against Boston since 1987, when it finished with a 1-12 mark against the Red Sox. Baltimore, in fact, has lost 11 consecutive series to Boston -- a streak that dates back to May 2008 -- and has been beaten by the Red Sox in 19 of the previous 21 and 23 of the past 26 times they've played.
"We haven't made good enough pitches to them and we haven't scored enough runs when we get the hits," said catcher Matt Wieters. "It's not so much confidence. You just have to go out there and keep playing."
"It seemed like the first game of every series that we played these guys, we have an opportunity to win the ballgame, and we just didn't get it done," added Trembley. "We didn't pitch well enough, we didn't make enough plays, we didn't get the hit at the right time. And they did. And in the second game of the series or the third game -- especially the middle game of every series we played them -- we were in it until late and then it got away. This one, I really felt the way Berken had pitched the last couple times, he was going to pitch a good one. And he just didn't."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.