The Red Sox fell to the Orioles 4-1 Saturday evening, with the bats that struggled to put together three runs on Friday going almost entirely quiet against Chris Tillman and Baltimore's bullpen.
Headed into the game, the real question was whether Boston's lineup would even get a shot. In his last outing, Clay Buchholz had allowed seven runs to the Yankees in the very first inning. When he started off Saturday's game with an up-and-down first featuring a line drive, a bloop, and a strikeout, it was a little bit of everything that produced more questions than answers.
As Buchholz worked his way through the next couple of innings, though, it became clear that, no, he was not the same disaster as he was a week before. His curveball was borderline unhittable, and he put it to good work, striking out Caleb Joseph, Steve Pearce, and Chris Davis to take the game into the fourth with no runs to his name.
The fourth and fifth would prove a lot more stressful, but not entirely because of Buchholz. The Orioles started their rally with a legitimate enough hit, as Adam Jones laced a single into left field, but Hanley Ramirez was mostly to blame for the lazy fly ball to the left field corner that he played into a double with a terrible break. From there, it was death by a thousand small cuts, with ground ball after ground ball getting through before Buchholz finally took over and ended it with a pair of strikeouts. In the end, it was a two-run frame that could have been much, much worse.
While most of the ground ball hits in the fourth were simply well-placed, in the fifth, it was a bit of questionable defense that cost Buchholz a baserunner. Again, the inning started with a well-hit single, but Xander Bogaerts proved up to the task of corralling the ground ball that followed, attempting to flip the ball to Dustin Pedroia. It would have been an out, but Pedroia had never found second with his back foot, leaving Chris Davis safe at second. That quickly turned into a bases loaded situation when Hanley backed up to the wall on Jimmy Paredes' fly ball, then let the ball bounce out of his glove for a generously-scored single.
But Buchholz did not crumble. He responded by getting a ground ball to first that went for a 3-2-3 double play, then after reloading the bases with his only walk of the night, struck out Ryan Flaherty to end the inning. All told, Buchholz produced six innings of two-run ball with seven strikeouts and 18 swinging strikes. He did it despite bad defense and bad luck, and it should have been enough to win.
But it wasn't. The Red Sox were just miserable at the plate. Not in that they couldn't do a thing against Baltimore's pitching staff, but in that they couldn't seem to take a step forward without taking two steps back immediately after. David Ortiz picked up a wallball hit in the first, but ran himself into an out at second. They put five men on for Dustin Pedroia, who in turn left five men on. David Ortiz reached second with no outs in the fourth, but Hanley couldn't move him to third before there were two outs in the inning. Daniel Nava grounded into an inning-ending double play with two men on in the bottom of the sixth after the Red Sox had scored their first run and chased Tillman from the game, and Hanley matched him after Ortiz lead off the eighth with a walk.
Still, the Red Sox had a chance to take the game into the ninth with just a one-run deficit...right up until Robbie Ross Jr. all-but-ended their hopes by allowing a two-run homer to Chris Davis in the top of the inning. The Red Sox went quietly in the bottom of the inning, and the game was over.
Honestly, it's not the worst loss for the Red Sox. They'll score runs, but seeing Clay Buchholz put together a game like this is encouraging. His curveball was on point, and he even managed to bail out his defense more than vice versa. That's probably more important than any given win. Still, a long game without much actual fun involved for the Red Sox and their fans.