BALTIMORE — There was a resolve among players, coaches, and manager John Farrell that Friday night’s game was very important for the Red Sox.
They had to show they could beat the Baltimore Orioles. Enough of this domination by the team that concluded the Sox’ September collapse in 2011, won 13 of 18 matchups last year, and took five of seven meetings this season entering the series opener at Camden Yards.
Well, make it six out of eight after the Sox’ 6-0 loss Friday.
“We were talking amongst ourselves here before the game about what can we do to change this with the Orioles,” said Shane Victorino. “How can we change it? What we have to do is come out aggressive and beat them and that will change everything. It will change the way we approach them and the way they approach us.
“That’s a good team. Tampa Bay is a good team. This is a tough stretch for us, but we have to make it happen. Nobody else can make it happen but us and we will.”
The loss, paired with the Rays’ win over the Yankees in New York, dropped the Sox out of first, a half-game behind Tampa Bay.
The Sox end the regular season with three games in Baltimore. The last thing they want is to revisit September of 2011. At least Robert Andino (who got the winning hit in the ninth inning of the final game to knock Boston out of the playoffs) isn’t around anymore. He’s playing for the Mariners’ Triple A team.
But the Orioles do have Adam Jones, who homered twice Friday and is hitting .343 with three homers and nine RBIs against the Sox this season. Manny Machado drove in two runs Friday and is hitting .444 against the Sox in 2013, with five doubles, two homers, and eight RBIs.
The Sox’ biggest problem Friday was Chris Tillman, who dominated over seven innings and allowed just two hits. He struck out eight as the Sox couldn’t catch up to his fastball.
Maybe it’s just Buck Showalter’s spell against the Sox; he’s 30-20 vs. Boston since taking over as Orioles skipper midway through the 2010 season. Baltimore is 15-5 against the Sox in the last 20 meetings.
“We had some things fall our way,” Showalter said. “We know there are so many teams in this division, you know, the road to competing passes through them. That’s a given with them.”
Both the Rays and Orioles shut down the Sox this week with good pitching. Matt Moore, David Price, and Tillman were nasty against a lineup that leads the majors in runs.
These Orioles are very much like Earl Weaver’s Orioles in that they hit home runs. They’ve homered in 11 straight games against the Sox, popping four homers Friday. Entering Friday the Orioles and Blue Jays were the only teams in the majors with three players having 17 or more home runs.
“We have to figure out why they have our number and turn that around,” Victorino said.
Just like how the Rays figured it out against the Sox. Tampa was 3-9 vs. Boston before their series this week, and after winning two of three at Fenway the Rays probably don’t fear the Sox anymore. The Sox have to do the same thing to Baltimore over their next 11 meetings.
When asked about beating the Sox so often, Jones said, “I don’t know if there’s a recipe for beating Boston. We just go after them. I was telling Big Papi before the game, this isn’t Fenway South anymore. This is Camden Yards. He remembers — and who doesn’t — when this place was all Boston. Now our fans are back here supporting us.”
Since Andino walked off with Boston’s heart that late September night in 2011, the Orioles are 20-7 against the Sox.
Someone on the Sox has to stop it.
It likely has to be a pitcher who spins a beauty and finally puts a stop to this explosive Orioles lineup — much like Tillman did to the Sox Friday. Could it be Ryan Dempster Saturday night? Could it be Jon Lester Sunday?
The good teams find a way.
“I think this is a challenge for us as a team and I think those challenges make you stronger,” Victorino said. “Our challenge is to turn this around against the Orioles. The guys in this room love challenges. This is a resilient team. We’ll forget the past and find ways to win in the future. That’s what we do here.”Nick Cafardo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.