Orioles 2, Red Sox 4: Orioles offense falters behind solid effort from Bud Norris

"Cool it, bro. Norris obviously wasn't throwing at you, and I'm a giant who could break you in half." - Jim Rogash

The Orioles lost a tough one today, failing to capitalize on a good start from Bud Norris.

Despite another good performance by Bud Norris (his final line doesn't do him justice, in my opinion), a poor showing by the offense and some late inning blunders left the Orioles a few runs short in their bid to win four games in a row.

Things looked good for the Orioles in the first inning, as Nick Markakis started the game with a single up the middle and a stolen base to get into scoring position with one out. Adam Jones worked a walk in a seven-pitch at bat, and after Chris Davis struck out, Nelson Cruz singled in Markakis. Though Matt Wieters struck out to strand both Jones and Cruz, the Orioles had forced Red Sox starting pitcher Felix Doubront to throw 29 pitches. Unfortunately that was the last time they worked the pitch count like that.

The Red Sox tied the game with a cheap run in the bottom half of the inning. With one out and runners on first and third, Mike Napoli hit what looked like an inning ending double play ball. Unfortunately, third baseman Jonathan Schoop dropped the ball and all runners were safe as Dustin Pedroia crossed the plate. The Red Sox were determined to hit into a double play, though, so Mike Carp then hit a grounder to J.J. Hardy at shortstop to get the desired result. The Orioles have made four errors this season and three of them have been by Schoop. In related news, Manny Machado played in an extended spring training game today and went 2-for-4. Come back soon, Manny!

After Doubront's rough first inning, he settled down and looked like a different pitcher. Depending on what narrative you want to follow, either the Orioles players refused to work the count and rolled over, or Doubront dialed it up a notch to turn around his performance. It was likely a little bit of both, as Doubront retired thirteen batters in a row before allowing a single to Nick Markakis to lead off the sixth inning. He was striking batters out even while keeping his pitch count so low that from innings 2-5 he averaged just 9.5 pitches per inning.

The good news was that Norris was almost as good. He was perfect in both the second and third innings, but gave up a home run to David Ortiz to lead off the fourth. Frankly, it was bound to happen. Norris has always struggled with lefties and Ortiz is one of the best in the game. But after that mishap, Norris got right back on track through the end of the sixth inning.

The Orioles tied the game in the sixth inning with a little help from the new instant replay rules. With runners on first and third with two outs, Nelson Cruz hit a ball up the third base line. Brock Holt did a good job of gloving the ball but he his throw from foul territory wasn't quite in time to catch Cruz. It was a very close play and the umpires called Cruz out. Manager Buck Showalter made use of the challenge system for the first time this season, and the replays showed that Cruz was indeed safe. That allowed Adam Jones to come in from third base to tie the score.

The 2-2 tie remained until the seventh inning, when the Red Sox broke through for two more runs amid some drama on the field. Norris came out to start the inning and it appeared that he was starting to tire out. He walked Mike Carp on five pitches, and as catcher David Ross attempted to bunt, Norris was unable to throw a strike to the man who was attempting to give the Orioles an out.

Said drama ensued when Norris' ball three to Ross came inside on him, and Ross, who was turned to bunt, thought it was too close for comfort. He immediately began yelling out at Norris, at least until all 6'5" and 240 pounds of Matt Wieters got into his way. There was some half-hearted clearing of the dugouts, but ultimately play resumed and Ross struck out.

Here is my question about what was going on. Did Ross think that Norris was throwing at him intentionally? It was a tie game in the seventh inning, the go-ahead run was on first, and Ross was trying to give the Orioles an out. It would be the weirdest time to throw at a batter ever. Or was Ross just mad because Norris didn't have any control? That would be odd, because the way Norris was pitching Ross probably could have drawn a walk. Broadcaster Gary Thorne tried to stir the pot by bringing up a quote from Ross after the Orioles beat the Red Sox on Opening Day, where he said that he felt like the Red Sox were beaten by a cheater, since the go-ahead homer against them that day was by the recently suspended Nelson Cruz. I have no idea if that was in play today at all (I suspect it wasn't), but either way I suggest that David Ross get off of his high horse.

Anyway, back to the game. Norris may have won the battle against Ross, but our excitement over that was short lived as the very next batter, Brock Holt tripled into the right-center gap. Carp came in to score to give the Red Sox the lead. In the hindsight is 20/20 department, I have to say that it was odd that Buck didn't pull Norris after he struck out Ross. He was clearly struggling with his control and the next batter up was a lefty. At any rate, Norris was pulled after the triple in favor of Ryan Webb.

With Webb on the mound, Jonathan Herrera bunted to the first base side as the runner came in from third. Chris Davis got a glove on the ball but couldn't make the transfer to his throwing hand fast enough to get the runner. That made the score 4-2, which is where it would remain.

The Orioles went quietly in the eighth inning, leaving their only hope for a comeback against Koji Uehara. And when your only hope is to score off of Koji, you have no hope at all. Koji walked Wieters to start the inning (his first walk of the year), but then struck out the next three batters to end the game.

Tough loss. But it was encouraging to see Bud Norris pitch well in back-to-back starts. I've been pretty tough on Bud since he got here, but I'd love nothing more than for him to prove me wrong and be a solid part of the rotation this year. The Orioles and Red Sox are back in action tomorrow night at 7 p.m. for ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball. Ubaldo Jimenez will be on the mound for the Orioles against Jake Peavy for the Red Sox.

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