Going into tonight's game, few were expecting a win. And given that the O's had already won the first two games, I think many fans were at peace with that. A win tonight would have been gravy. The trouble is, the Orioles never seem lose in a dignified manner. Instead of Jon Lester shutting down the offense the way he tends to do and Brad Bergesen giving up a handful of runs, Bergy went toe-to-toe with Lester and the loss turned out to be thanks to another ugly (and I mean ugly) performance by the bullpen.
I'm happy to say that it was a good night for Bergesen. He got himself into a sticky situation in the first inning, as the first batter he faced, Jacoby Ellsbury, lined a double to the left-center gap. Ellsbury scored two batters later on a double by Adrian Gonzalez, which Bergy immediately followed with a walk to Kevin Youkilis. Thankfully David Ortiz grounded into a double play, so the damage was limited, but with twenty-four pitches thrown, it was a rough way to start the game.
Bergesen retired the side on seven pitches in the second inning but got into another jam in the third, again with Ellsbury and Gonzalez. After retiring Marco Scutaro on a fly ball to center, Ellsbury got another hit, this time a single to left. He moved to second on a ground out by Pedroia (it was a nice play by Reynolds, who had to rush in and barehand the softly hit ball), then scored on a single by Gonzalez.
Bergesen cruised through the fourth and fifth innings, then needed a Houdini act to get through the sixth. To start, Pedroia hit a ball just out in front of the plate. Bergesen could have thrown him out but instead fell down. It was sad. Gonzalez then hit a ball down the left field line for a double (Jake Fox was playing left field tonight, as he tends to do against left-handed pitchers. Felix Pie would have made the catch, and could have done at least what Fox did at the plate tonight, which was nothing), putting runners on second and third. If you thought this was the beginning of the massacre, you weren't alone. But Bergesen got his act together and struck out Youkilis and Ortiz and, after an intentional walk to J.D. Drew to load the bases, Jarrod Saltalamacchia hit a long fly ball to center. The Red Sox fans in the crowd began to roar and Adam Jones raced back, back, back, and made a leaping catch to save the inning! The moment the Sox fans shut up the O's fans took over, roaring their appreciation. It was the second fine catch of the night for Adam Jones, who looks light years better in the field than he did in 2010.
That would be it for Bergesen. He took the mound to start the seventh but was removed without facing a batter, presumably so that he could get a nice ovation from the crowd. It could be considered another premature removal given that Bergy was only at 92 pitches and hadn't pitched poorly, but regardless it was a fine night for him. Bergy's final line: 6 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 2 BB (1 IBB), 5 K.
Unfortunately Bergesen had two things going against him tonight: Jon Lester and the Orioles bullpen. First, Lester. The O's were down 1-0 before they got their first at-bat, but they made up for it quickly. Brian Roberts worked a walk with Nick Markakis following with a solid single to left. In vintage fashion, Roberts stole third. The throw wasn't even close. Derrek Lee singled between shortstop and third, scoring Roberts and tying the game at one. That's where the good hitting stopped. Vladimir Guerrero struck out on an ridiculous pitch low and away, and Jones hit into a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning.
After that Lester pitched like the Lester we expected. He didn't allow another hit until the sixth inning, although he did have some trouble with his control in the fourth, walking Jones and Matt Wieters with two down, but Mark Reynolds got him out of that jam by grounding out on the first pitch.
With two outs in the sixth, Lester hit a roadblock named Vladdy. Vlad worked a 3-2 count and just as I wondered aloud if he might draw his first walk of the season, he hit a screaming line drive to left field for a home run. Seriously, that ball was smoked. The home run tied the game at 2. Lester struck out Jones to end the inning and flew through the seventh and eighth innings, allowing just one more hit.
Now for that other obstacle standing between the Orioles and victory: the bullpen. Jim Johnson came on to pitch the seventh and Carl Crawford finally got something done doubling to right. Scutaro attempted to bunt, but it was terrible. Wieters pounced on the ball, glared Crawford back to second, and threw Scutaro out. After moving to third on a ground out, Crawford scored the go ahead run when Pedroia hit very soft grounder to third that Reynolds couldn't handle.
After hitting Youkilis to lead off the eighth, JJ was removed in favor of Mike Gonalez. That's the same guy who has allowed runs in five of his six appearances this year, in case you were wondering. But maybe tonight would be his lucky night! Haha, just kidding. Gonzalez was absolutely terrible. Ortiz singled up the middle and pinch-hitter Mike Cameron walked to load the bases. A single by Saltalamacchia knocked in Youkilis, then Gonzalez got his only out of the night by striking out Crawford.
With the bases still loaded and one out, Jason Berken tried to stop the bleeding. He did not. He did get Scutaro to pop out, but then that jerk Ellsbury got another hit on which both Ortiz and Cameron scored. Both runs were charged to Gonzalez, who has now allowed eight earned runs in five and one-third innings.
So the Orioles went into the bottom of the ninth, needing just four runs to tie and five to win. They got zero, going down in order against Jonathan Papelbon.