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Orioles 5, Red Sox 6: Defensive miscues doom the O's in a heartbreaker

It was great when it all began... and then things fell like dominoes later in the game amidst a flurry of defensive mistakes.

(AP Photo/Mike Dwyer)

The Sunday night baseball, the ESPN-televised, nationally-viewed game of the week.  Orioles were on a bigger (broadcast) stage tonight against the Red Sox and it was a tough one to watch... really, really tough.  Sigh

The Orioles started the game with a bang in the first inning - Nelson Cruz saw the first pitch from Jake Peavy and deposited it in the Green Monster seats for a 1-0 lead and three batters later, Matt Wieters stung a high fastball to drive in Chris Davis and Hardy hit a sac fly for a 3-0 lead.  A batter later, David Lough gave it a nice ride towards the warning track, but the Sox RF Daniel Nava made a basket catch to end the inning.  The Birds could have scored more but they still scored three and took advantage of Peavy not having optimal command of his fastball.

Ubaldo had a no-no going on until the he faced Jonny Gomes in the fourth inning with two outs - the Sox outfielder hit a double off of Jimenez to end the no-hitter but the next hitter Daniel Nava struck out to end the short-lived threat.  I don't think Ubaldo had picture-perfect command going on tonight but he threw pretty well.  One thing about Jimenez's effectiveness tonight was that he was able to induce more grounders.  After having a low 30.2% grounder rate after first 3 starts, he induced 40.0% tonight - not still what the Orioles signed up for but an improvement.

The Orioles offense struck again in the 5th inning.  After Chris Davis and Adam Jones grounded out, Matt Wieters and J.J. Hardy each singled to have two runners on with two outs for David Lough.  On the first pitch, Lough hit a line drive to right for a ground-rule double to make it 4-0 lead.  And on the sixth inning, Ryan Flaherty decided that he wanted to join in on the fun and doubled to start the inning.  The following batters - Markakis and Cruz - both popped and flied out and Peavy intentionally walked Chris Davis to face Jones (who, by the way, is having a nicer season than Davis but same-handed matchup for the win, right?) and the centerfielder made him pay.  Jones singled home Flaherty to give a 5-0 lead.

Bottom of the sixth, things got dicier.  After grounding out Pedroia, Jimenez allowed a single to Ortiz and walked Napoli.  Then the Boston strongman Jonny Gomes hit a blast over the Monster to cut the O's lead to two.   The O's offense went away quietly against Capuano and came to bottom of the 7th... and things became even messier.

Reliever Zack Britton struck out Pierzynski to begin the inning but Holt singled.  One on, one out, Britton induced a groundball to himself from Grady Sizemore and made a throw to Flaherty to start the double play.  Flaherty caught the ball, had his foot on the base, but the ball slipped out of glove once he tried to begin the throwing motion.  Despite that Flaherty (again,) had his foot on the base as he caught the ball and it *seemed* like he had sufficient time on the base to appear that he made an appropriate catch for an out, the umpires ruled it an error on Flaherty and out was not made.  As you may know, the new transfer rule is quite silly and many players feel that way.  The way the rule is written, there are a lot of subjectivity on what constitutes a complete "catch" or what isn't.   Showalter didn't challenge the call, and the next batter, Pedroia, singled to make it bases loaded.  Transfer play or not, if Flaherty makes the double play, the Orioles would have gotten out of the inning unscathed.  I have a feeling that Hardy would have made the play but you never know.

The defense fail didn't stop in the bottom of the seventh.   Bases loaded, one out, Meek induced a grounder to third from Napoli.  Schoop caught the ball close enough to third base that he could've gone for a 5-3 double play or he could've gone for a 5-4-3.  I don't think Mike Napoli is that much of a speed demon either.  Instead, he prioritized on getting a runner out at home and I don't think it was a terrible decision - what was terrible is that he bounced a throw to Wieters and the catcher couldn't handle it as the tying run scored.  Luckily for the O's, Gomes popped out and Nava struck out to avoid further damage.

The Orioles had a runner on in their half of the eighth inning by the Flaherty single but failed to score.  I'd like to give props to Evan Meek for tonight's performance - he inherited (sorry) a troubling situation and induced a grounder that could've gotten the team out of the inning but defensive miscue prolonged it.  But still, he got out of it without giving the Sox a lead.  Also, in the bottom of the eighth, he got all three batters he faced to ground out.

As the Orioles batted in the ninth, Adam Jones led off the inning with a double against LHP Andrew Miller.  Then Wieters grounded out to second to advance him to third.  However, hitting a sac fly was a bit much to ask for Lombardozzi, who weakly grounded out to the pitcher as the runner stayed put.  The next pitcher, Edward Mujica, struck out Lough to end the inning.  Sigh.

In the bottom of the 9th, Matusz came in and struck out Sizemore but allowed a mammoth.. (wait for it)... double to Pedroia and walked Ortiz.  O'Day came in and he hit Napoli and allowed a line drive to Carp, which Lough caught and threw poorly.  I mean, poorly.  One of Lough's strengths in the game is defense and that throw had no accuracy.  So bad that it was nowhere near Wieters for him to run and reach in a reasonable amount of time.  Pedroia judged that the liner was not deep enough for him to try to score so he had gone back to third base but the errant throw was errant enough for him to score easily.  6-5, Red Sox.

So yes, a good first few innings by Ubaldo and offense gave the Orioles a hope of taking the series from Boston but the series of defense miscues (and some bad luck) doomed the Birds.  They now stand below the .500 mark with a 8-9 record.