BALTIMORE — Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski had a front-row seat.
For all nine innings, he sat in the press box at Camden Yards and watched his team play the Orioles.
It wasn’t a sight to see.
The Red Sox lost, 11-2, and the game appeared out of reach by the end of the fourth inning.
“I think this is definitely one of the worst [losses],” Xander Bogaerts said. “Especially if you’re talking about from a team standpoint, [the Orioles] are not one of the leading teams in any category or one of the top teams. They’re last in the division. They came out playing good baseball today.”
Manager Alex Cora talked about being prudent with giving players days off because of the heat. He gave Betts a rest in right, starting him at DH. Michael Chavis got the start at second and Christian Vazquez played first. But with the Sox playing for their playoff lives now, there might not be much rest left for his regulars.
In the bottom of the first, David Price allowed a three-run homer on a fastball he left up in the zone to Anthony Santander, which gave the Orioles a quick 3-0 lead.
In the second, Sam Travis hit a two-run shot to cut the deficit to 3-2, but after that it was all Orioles.
Richie Martin tripled to right field in the second, but an error by right fielder J.D. Martinez, who was out there in place of Betts, allowed Martin to score.
Two innings later, Keon Broxton hit a two-run homer to left on a Price changeup. Price’s night was finished after he struck out Trey Mancini to end the frame. Price finished at 88 pitches, allowing six earned runs. It was only the third time in 18 starts that Price hadn’t pitched at least five innings.
“He wasn’t able to finish Santander there with two strikes and he hung a changeup there to Broxton,” Cora said. “Coming into the start we knew we would have to see where he was. He made a lot of pitches [in his last start] against the Dodgers.”
The pitch count proved to be the most glaring problem for Price. He’s certainly been the Red Sox’ best starter, but recently said that he hasn’t finished off batters the way in which he’s capable, often having to go through long at-bats.
In his loss to the Dodgers last Sunday, for instance, Price threw 113 pitches and had to be taken out after the fifth inning. It was much of the same Friday.
“I went five in Detroit [July 7] and it was a grind,” Price said. “I went five [after] that and it was a grind. It’s been tough to get early outs. Whether it’s getting strike one and strike two and letting guys back into the count. Or being 2-0 and having to grind back in that count and finally getting an out. It takes six, seven, or eight pitches. I feel like even 1-2-3 innings are even 20-pitch innings right now.”
He threw 21 pitches in just the first inning Friday and was at 59 pitches by the end of the third. The long at-bats show up in the numbers, too. In those four innings, the Orioles fouled off 19 of Price’s pitches. In his start against the Dodgers, 31 were fouled off.
Price said it’s a matter of him executing and making better pitches.
“That’s what it boils down to,” Price said. “It’s something I’ve struggled with the past three or four starts. It’s something I need to get better at.”
The Sox went to their bullpen, calling on Colten Brewer and Ryan Weber, who combined to allow five more runs. But for all the struggles of the pitching, the offense had its problems, too, as did the defense.
After Travis’s homer in the second the offense went dormant for practically the entire game. Their next hit didn’t come until the fifth on a Chavis single. The Red Sox were 0 for 5 with runners in scoring position. By the seventh, the Orioles seemingly put the Red Sox away tacking on three runs, one of which came on a costly Chavis error at second.
The Sox are now 53-45, three games behind Oakland for the second wild-card spot. The A’s haven’t lost back-to-back games since June 8. Cora unapologetically stated after the Sox were swept by the Yankees in London that his team still had its mind on winning the division. The date was June 30 and his club was 11 games back. Fast forward to Friday, July 19, following a Yankees win against the Colorado Rockies, and that number is still at 11.
“We’ll see tomorrow,” Cora said. “We have a chance to still win two out of three.”
The Sox will try and find a balance between resting guys this weekend while still competing to win games, as evidenced by Betts starting at DH on Friday. Chavis got the start at second and Christian Vazquez played first. But with the Sox playing for their playoff lives now, each win matters and each loss carries significant weight.
Inconsistency has been their Achilles’ heel, and they’ve yet to find out why.
“I wish I knew, man,” Bogaerts said. “I don’t know. It seems like every team that comes to play against us, they really want to beat us and humiliate us. For the most part we haven’t had many losses like this today. It’s one of those tough games and it’s a bad moment to have one of these losses. Tomorrow we have to come back and be much better. This is unacceptable.”