Orioles 3, Red Sox 2: Sox fall short of sweep thanks to slumping sluggers

Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

David Ortiz and Jonny Gomes couldn't bust out of their slumps, leaving the Red Sox one run shy of the Orioles.

Jonny Gomes has six hits in 37 at bats, David Ortiz not a one in 22. With Ortiz batting fourth, Gomes going sixth, and Dustin Pedroia throwing in an 0-for-4 batting third, the Red Sox could not make good on the opportunities offered them by Jacoby Ellsbury, Shane Victorino, and Daniel Nava, falling 3-2 to the Orioles.

Usually a mess of a ballgame doesn't involve quite as much good defense as Boston produced tonight, but it's kind of hard to call this game anything else. The Red Sox twice managed to strand Jacoby Ellsbury after the speedy center fielder reached second with nobody out in both the first and eighth innings. Jon Lester was off his game, allowing loud contact all night, with only strong defensive efforts by Dustin Pedroia and Shane Victorino helping to keep the Orioles to just three runs in his six innings of work. Stephen Drew had a monumentally bad play at short where he let a soft pop-up fall in front of him, if a broken bat certainly helped. And when gifted a baserunner to start the ninth thanks to a lack fo communication between Jim Johnson and Chris Davis on a weak ground ball, Jonny Gomes promptly hit into a double play.

Even Boston's best hitter on the night was not impervious. Shane Victorino once again rose to the challenge with two his, including a solo homer in the bottom of the sixth that looked more or less identical to his recent shots--a line drive into the Monster seats. And yet, with Ellsbury at first in the eighth, Victorino twice squared to bunt, failed to get what would have been a questionable sacrifice down, and then after Ellsbury stole second on a pitch out,  Victorino went flailing at an awful pitch for the strikeout.

What really epitomizes the game, though, is the second run allowed by Jon Lester, all the way back in the third. After an 88 MPH offering found half Nate McClouth's bat and half his hand, the Orioles' left fielder was in some serious pain. It's a situation where, 2-2, you have to throw strikes, and make him swing the bat and hit them. Lester threw two balls while McLouth stood stoically, taking his base and scoring on a wall ball double from Manny Machado.

The Rays, thankfully, had already lost before the game even started. The Red Sox took the series in the first two games, and still have a 6-3 record in their last nine games. It would have been a big win, giving the Sox a 3.5 game lead in the East and basically crushing the Orioles, leaving them 8.5 back. But if it's an opportunity missed, it's at least a loss they paid for in advance. It's time to move on to the White Sox, and hopefully another series win.

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