BALTIMORE — The Red Sox sent three batters to the plate in the second inning against the Orioles Wednesday night. Two had hits and the Sox didn’t score or leave anybody on base.
A season of creatively bad baseball continued with a 5-2 loss before a crowd of 22,201 at Camden Yards.
The 27-33 Sox lost the first two games of the three-game series. They are 10-17 against American League East teams this season and have lost four of five road series against divisional foes.
“We felt pretty good coming here, too,” Mookie Betts said.
After scoring seven runs on Sunday, the Sox have scored two runs in two games against Baltimore. Orioles relievers have pitched 8⅔ scoreless innings and allowed one hit.
“I thought we played with good intensity, good energy tonight,” said manager John Farrell, searching for light in the darkness.
That second inning was an example of how quickly the Sox can turn good into bad.
Xander Bogaerts led off with a blast to the base of the wall in center field. Adam Jones barehanded the ball, made a terrific throw and nabbed Bogaerts at second base. An initial safe call was correctly overturned after a quick review.
Bogaerts slid too early on the play and J.J. Hardy made a quick tag.
Pablo Sandoval followed with a single down the line in left, tried for second base, and was easily thrown out there by Travis Snider.
Farrell didn’t fault the aggressiveness.
“That’s forcing them to throw a strike. They did,” he said.
Betts followed with a line drive to center field that Jones ran down and made a leaping catch on to end the inning. Jones made a diving catch in the fifth to steal another hit away from Betts.
“That’s what he does,” said Betts, who last season asked Jones for advice about playing center field. “He’s one of the best players in the game.”
It was that way all game. The Sox had only seven hits against a trio of Baltimore pitchers and struck out 10 times.
The Sox have scored two or fewer runs in an astonishing 24 of their 60 games.
Sox starter Rick Porcello (4-6) allowed five runs on 10 hits over 5⅓ innings. He struck out the side in the first then put 10 of the next 21 hitters on base.
Porcello twice allowed runs in the bottom of an inning after the Sox scored in the top, part of a season-long trend for the righthander.
“It’s frustrating, trust me. I’m doing everything I can to go out there and put up a zero and it just didn’t happen,” Porcello said.
Said Farrell: “Any time you score, the opposition is going to look to be a little bit more aggressive. Possibly not taking that aggressiveness into your advantage, to use the aggressiveness to expand the strike zone a little bit.”
With two outs and a runner on second base in the second, Porcello allowed an RBI double to right center by Hardy. Ryan Flaherty followed with an RBI single.
The Red Sox came back with a run in the third against Wei-Yin Chen when Dustin Pedroia singled and came around on Brock Holt’s double to left field.
Porcello gave the run back quickly. Manny Machado led off with a double to left field and scored when Jones grounded a single up the middle of a drawn-in infield.
That Farrell played the infield in with his team trailing, 2-1, in the third inning at Camden Yards was telling. For these Sox, a two-run deficit is a chasm.
The Sox cut the lead to 3-2 in the sixth. Pedroia led off with a double to right field and took third when Holt singled. With Chen at only 91 pitches, Orioles manager Buck Showalter went to Tommy Hunter.
The righthander overmatched Hanley Ramirez, striking him out on three pitches. Mike Napoli then grounded into what should have been a double play but Flaherty, the second baseman, made a wild throw to first base and Pedroia scored.
Sandoval grounded into a force to end the inning. His last RBI was May 24 and last extra-base hit was May 17.
Porcello couldn’t hold it there. Chris Davis and Delmon Young led off the bottom of the inning with singles. Travis Snider singled in Davis before a sacrifice fly off the bat of Hardy drove in Young.
Reliable lefthander Tommy Layne came in and struck out Flaherty and Caleb Joseph but the Sox were down by three runs.
Porcello admitted his failure to record a shutdown inning after the Sox score is getting to him.
“I honestly think I need to stop making so much of a big deal about it,” he said. “Just go out there and continue to pitch like I’ve been pitching. Every time we score a run I start pressing to go out there and put up zero.”
Porcello was signed to a four-year, $82.5 million extension before throwing a pitch for the Sox. He has a 5.26 earned run average through 12 starts.