BALTIMORE — The Baltimore Orioles have admitted in recent days that they’ve started scoreboard watching. With 45 games left in the regular season, there’s still plenty of baseball to be played, but the Orioles have put themselves in a position to be finally called a contender.
Thursday began with the Orioles holding the top AL wild-card spot, with their focus set on the AL East division-leading Yankees.
And before Baltimore took the field at Camden Yards for its series finale with the Red Sox, the Orioles knew the Yankees had already lost and that they could cut their division lead to five games.
But the Orioles couldn’t take advantage against the reeling Red Sox, blowing a two-run lead heading into the fifth inning on their way to a 6-3 loss in front of an announced crowd of 25,483.
Baltimore (64-54) lost for just the fourth game in 12 contests against Boston this season. With the loss, the Orioles remained six games back of the division-leading Yankees.
“You always want to get a sweep,” Baltimore’s Adam Jones, who doubled home two runs in the first inning, said of the Orioles failing in the series finale after winning the first two games. “But I’m proud of this team, 7-3 homestand.
“We’ve been grinding and we’ve been battling and we had a solid homestand.”
Reliever Luis Ayala, who entered the night with a 1.76 ERA in his last 13 games, yielded three Boston runs in the sixth inning of a tie game.
Orioles starter Chris Tillman, beleaguered by a high pitch count that had him at 51 pitches after just two innings, lasted just 42 / 3 innings, his second shortest outing of the season. Through his first four innings, Tillman stranded five base runners, including four in scoring position.
He left the game tied at 3 with two outs in the fifth, allowing runs on a wild pitch that allowed Carl Crawford to score and an Adrian Gonzalez sacrifice fly before giving way to Kevin Gregg, who put two men on before getting out of the inning.
Ayala almost got out of the sixth without allowing a run. With runners at second and third and two outs, Dustin Pedroia hit a soft bouncer down the third base line that Manny Machado charged but couldn’t scoop up — a play that was ruled an infield single but probably should have been made.
That made it 4-3, and ensuing run-scoring singles by Gonzalez and Cody Ross padded the lead to three.
Mark Reynolds continued to swing a hot bat with his fourth homer in six games, a solo shot to straightaway center that put the Orioles up 3-1 in the second inning. In eight games against the Red Sox this season, Reynolds is 13 for 30 with nine extra-base hits (five homers, two doubles), eight walks and 13 RBI.
Clay Buchholz held Baltimore scoreless for the next six innings after Reynolds’s homer, rebounding for a quality start. He allowed three runs on eight hits over eight innings.
The Orioles took an early 2-0 lead just four batters into the game against Buchholz on Jones’s two-run double.
Boston cut the lead to 2-1 in the top of the second on Scott Podsednik’s two-out RBI single off Tillman.
Over Tillman’s last two starts, he’s allowed nine earned runs in 101 / 3 innings, failing to reach six innings both times. In three starts against the Red Sox he’s allowed seven earned runs in 11 innings, allowing 23 base runners.