Red Sox drop fourth in a row
Boston has lost nine out of 10 at Fenway
David Ortiz held the bat over his head as he walked slowly back to the dugout in the eighth inning Saturday afternoon, the line drive he hit having resulted in an out.
A man who normally shows only joy on the field, Ortiz pulled the bat down over the top of his helmet in a burst of frustration until it splintered in half.
“That’s the way I feel right now,’’ he said. “When things are going good, they’re going good. When they’re going bad, they’re going bad. That’s baseball in general. That’s one part of baseball that I’ll never figure out.’’
There’s a lot of that going around with the Red Sox, who were beaten, 8-2, by the Baltimore Orioles. A team that only a week ago appeared to have steadied itself is sliding away again, having lost four straight and five of its last six.
At 11-15, the Sox are falling deeper into last place with a lineup left thin by injuries and a pitching staff with a collective earned run average of 5.44, the second worst in the game.
Their performance at Fenway Park has been an embarrassment, with nine losses in the last 10 games.
It’s part of a trend. As Kirk Minihane of WEEI pointed out on Twitter, the Patriots have had nine victories at home since last Sept. 1 and the Red Sox eight.
When asked about the team’s performance at Fenway before the game, manager Bobby Valentine tried to smile through what has been a painful and dispiriting return to the major leagues for him.
“We have played well at home,’’ he said. “We just haven’t won the games that we could have won.’’
There was more of the same rationalization afterward.
“They got a lot of balls that fell in here and we got a lot of balls that they dove and caught,’’ Valentine said. “It’ll all catch up with us. Our balls will fall and we’re going to win a lot of games at home.’’
There’s little evidence to support that notion. The Red Sox are 49-47 at Fenway since the start of last season, making it the opposition’s most beloved ballpark. The Sox have allowed 75 runs in their last 10 games at home.
This Stinko de Mayo party was over in the third inning when the Orioles scored seven runs on seven hits against Aaron Cook in his Red Sox debut.
After retiring the first five batters, Cook allowed two hits, then was injured in a freak play at the plate in the second inning.
With Chris Davis on third, Cook threw a sinker that catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia was late trying to smother with his glove. The ball got past him and Davis broke for the plate.
Cook tried to block the plate, sliding to a stop on his knees. One of Davis’s spikes caught Cook in the left knee, opening a deep cut.
“I was trying to stop in front of the plate, and he made a perfect slide into the plate and my momentum took me into him,’’ Cook said.
Cook went up into the clubhouse to get patched up and returned to the mound to get the final out of the inning. His perseverance in the face of adversity seemed to be just what the Red Sox needed.
Only it didn’t work out that way. Cook got one out in the third before putting seven consecutive Orioles on base. Nick Markakis had an RBI single, Adam Jones a two-run home run, and Wilson Betemit an RBI single.
When Cook finally was taken out of the game, his leg having gone numb, reliever Clayton Mortensen threw a fastball that Mark Reynolds drove over the wall for a three-run homer.
Cook later needed 11 stitches to close the gash in his leg and was walking with a pronounced limp. But he did not regret staying in the game.
“It was my decision,’’ he said. “I wanted to go out there and try to eat up some more innings. I know our bullpen’s been kind of taxed. At the end of the day, I don’t know if it was the best decision.’’
While the injury was certainly a factor in his performance, the results were not a complete surprise. Cook was 9-18 with a 5.49 ERA over the last two seasons for the Colorado Rockies before being signed to a minor league contract.
“I give the guy a lot of credit for going back out there,’’ said Scott Atchison, who threw three innings of no-hit relief. “It’s too bad it didn’t work out better.’’
Watching the play unfold from first base, Adrian Gonzalez couldn’t help but wonder what was going to happen next.
“We’re losing a lot of games,’’ he said. “If it’s not one thing, it’s the other. We’re working hard to get past it, to get over the hump and get back to .500 and take off from there.
“The good thing is that it’s still May 5. There’s still a lot of season to be played.’’
Trailing, 8-0, the Red Sox were finished, outside of two meaningless runs in the seventh inning.
Clay Buchholz, the worst of the starters so far in this fractured season, takes the mound Sunday afternoon with the Red Sox trying to avoid a sweep.
“We’ve got to come back and play better,’’ Ortiz said. “It’s not magic.’’