BOSTON — The momentum the Baltimore Orioles built over their first two nights at Fenway Park quickly diminished Thursday.
Boston Red Sox right-hander John Lackey carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning on his way to a complete-game two-hitter as the Orioles couldn’t muster the offense for a third straight comeback victory, falling 3-1 before an announced 36,436.
The loss snapped the Orioles’ three-game winning streak. It also eliminated the Orioles from contention in the American League East and allowed Boston to clinch a postseason berth.
Center fielder Adam Jones broke up Lackey’s no-hit bid with his career-high 32nd homer of the season, taking a 0-1 cutter clear over the Green Monster in left field and onto Lansdowne Street.
J.J. Hardy added a single with one out in the eighth, but the Orioles were overmatched by Lackey. The Orioles (81-71) had just four base runners, and Jones was the only batter to move beyond first base.
“With this team, we’re always a bloop and a blast away. We just didn’t get the bloop and the blast,” Jones said. “Move on to Tampa. We’ve got four games down there that are important, so it’s a loss and move on.”
Before Jones’ home run, the Orioles managed just two base runners off Lackey (10-12) on a pair or two-out walks — one to Brian Roberts in the second inning and the other to Nate McLouth in the sixth.
Their series in Boston was still a success in that the Orioles took two of three from the team with the best record in baseball and flew south still very much in the wild-card hunt heading into a pivotal four-game series against the Tampa Bay Rays. But they weren’t necessarily looking at it that way.
“Who cares about getting two out of three,” Jones said. “At this point and time, winning the series means nothing. We need wins is all. Good job getting the series if this was June, but it’s September. We need wins.”
Said manager Buck Showalter: “There’s a small margin of error. I don’t think our guys are satisfied with [taking two of three]. Mathimatically, over a long season it bodes well, but we’re in a different spot. Every game is either a gained opportunity or a missed one.”
The Red Sox (93-61) scored three runs off Orioles starter Chris Tillman (16-7) in the second inning, highlighted by Stephen Drew’s two-run homer to left field.
Drew blasted a first-pitch fastball into the first row of the Green Monster seats, the 31st homer Tillman has allowed this season, tied for second most in the majors.
Boston added another run when No. 9 hitter Jackie Bradley Jr. doubled with one out and Dustin Pedroia followed with an RBI single.
The Orioles trailed early in each of the first two games of the series but rallied to win both times, including Wednesday night’s 12-inning victory.
Tillman entered the night having dominated the Red Sox. His 2.15 career ERA in nine starts against the Red Sox was the lowest career ERA against Boston for any pitcher who has logged at least 50 innings. In four previous starts at Fenway Park, he had a 1.93 ERA.
But four of Boston’s first five hits Thursday were for extra bases. After a one-out walk to Daniel Nava in the second inning, Tillman retired 13 of the next 14 batters he faced.
Stephen Drew hit a line drive to the center-field nook that went off the end of Jones’ glove for a two-out triple in the sixth, but Tillman got out of the inning by striking out Bradley on his 100th pitch of the night.
Tillman, who finished having retired 17 of the final 19 batters he faced, recorded his 20th quality start of the season in 31 starts, allowing three runs on seven hits over seven innings. For the fifth time in his past six outings, Tillman went seven or more innings.
— Baltimore Sun