Alfredo Aceves survived five innings, allowing just two runs, but the Red Sox let the Orioles off the hook with an anemic offensive performance, falling 3-2 after a seventh inning run against the bullpen.
There will be all sorts of blame tossed around for this game, much like last night's performance, but one man who doesn't deserve it is Alfredo Aceves. Love him or hate him, Aceves pitched well enough Thursday night for the Sox to win. He was wild, but brought it back enough to avoid filling the bases with free runners. His defense bailed him out a few times, but on the whole it was a decent enough performance. One the Sox would live with from a spot starter every time.
The other man who doesn't deserve blame is the one who took the loss. Clayton Mortensen did his part to bridge the gap to the stronger portions of the pen, allowing just one hit in recording five outs. The two-out single to left that ended his night in the seventh would prove to be the go-ahead run, but that was more the fault of the next two men out of the pen: Andrew Miller, whose only job was to get Nick Markakis out, but instead ended up walking him, and Koji Uehara, who finally gave up a hit to Adam Jones--a hard hit down the left field line that scored Manny Machado.
It was the go-ahead run, with the Sox having only managed to complete one rally back in the third, when back-to-back singles from Dustin Pedroia and Mike Napoli briefly put them ahead 2-1. From there, however, there was simply not enough. A lineup full of players who can hit simply did not. Hittable pitches--middle-middle pitches, at times--were swung on and fouled back, as they have been too often in the last few games. The pitches were there, the Red Sox simply didn't cash in.
If that is where primary fault lies, however, let it not be forgotten that tonight is an early contender for the worst called game of the year. If Wednesday was a game where one awful call had a massive impact (though a ninth inning walk turned into a strikeout tonight comes awfully close), this was one where Jim Joyce's failure to maintain a strike zone slowly but surely erased the integrity of the product on the field. This is not tradition. It is not the human element. It is simply terrible. If baseball cannot find a way to consistently provide competent umpires, then it must provide a reasonable alternative.
The loss, however, belongs to the Red Sox, one way or another. With the Rays coming into town tomorrow, it's not going to be getting easier to score runs, but harder. If the Red Sox don't find their bats soon, that fast start will be gone in the blink of an eye.