Week­long crash con­tin­ues for O’s

Baltimore Sun - - ORIOLES - By Peter Schmuck peter.schmuck@balt­sun.com twit­ter.com/Sch­muck­S­top

It was a week ago Wed­nes­day night that the Ori­oles scored an up­lift­ing vic­tory over the Bos­ton Red Sox and seemed fo­cused on win­ning the Amer­i­can League East ti­tle.

Seven days later, they seem de­ter­mined to play their way out of the post­sea­son en­tirely.

The Red Sox scored five runs in a dis­as­trous sixth in­ning and moved to the thresh­old of a four-game sweep at Cam­den Yards with a 5-1 vic­tory Wed­nes­day night. The loss dropped the Ori­oles six games out of first place and badly ex­posed to the group of teams be­hind them that are try­ing to scratch their way into the two wild-card play­off slots.

The only ques­tion is whether Chris Till­man can sal­vage the fi­nal game of the series and give the Ori­oles (82-70) a chance to re­gain their equi­lib­rium dur­ing the forth­com­ing in­ter­league series against the last-place Ari­zona Di­a­mond­backs.

Man­ager Buck Showal­ter made it clear he has not lost any con­fi­dence.

“I’m very proud of these guys,” he said. “I’ve got a long mem­ory. They’ll get it go­ing here. If we can get in [the play­offs], I feel real good about this group. That’s what we’re try­ing to do.”

But noth­ing, it seems, can be taken for granted … not af­ter Chris Davis scooped up a soft bouncer in the sixth in­ning and made an in­ex­pli­ca­ble two-run throw­ing er­ror.

The Ori­oles were scuf­fling along with a 1-0 lead af­ter start­ing pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez pulled a cou­ple of great es­capes against the re­lent­less Bos­ton of­fense. The Red Sox (88-64) had run­ners all over the place through the first five in­nings, but were­cruis­ing onkarma. Four of their six hits were ei­ther in­field roll­outs or soft fly balls, and the other five base run­ners came on four walks and a catcher’s-in­ter­fer­ence call. Even the de­ci­sive swing by catcher Sandy Leon was just a slow bouncer that should have ended the in­ning.

Maybe it’s all just meant to be for the Red Sox, who par­layed a sim­i­larly odd de­fen­sive mess-up by New York Yan­kees pitcher CC Sa­bathia into an un­likely vic­tory Sun­day. Both times the er­ror was fol­lowed by a game-break­ing home run — this time a three-run shot by No. 9 hit­ter An­drew Ben­in­tendi. How galling is that?

“It’s ob­vi­ously not how we planned this series go­ing,” said re­liever Brad Brach, who gave up that home run af­ter pitch­ing well enough to get out of the in­ning. “We didn’t plan on los­ing the first three, but I think ev­ery­body’s go­ing to tell you we need to just fo­cus on to­mor­row and for­get about tonight.”

The Sox won for the sev­enth straight time and the Ori­oles dropped to 2-5 on the home­s­tand ev­ery­one hoped would pro­pel them into the fi­nal-week sprint with the Toronto Blue Jays and Red Sox for the chance to skip the wild-card round and open in the Di­vi­sion Series.

In­stead, the Ori­oles’ pow­er­packed of­fense has taken much of the past week off and they now have to con­tend with the Hous­ton Astros, who have crept to within a game of the sec­ond wild-card berth, and the Detroit Tigers, who also are a game back and could have sneaked even closer with a vic­tory in Min­nesota, but their game was post­poned.

“Our guys are re­ally push­ing,” Showal­ter said. “Some­times you can al­most want some­thing too much and you can’t take that away from them. The ‘want-to’ is al­ways there for our guys. Now, it can be a … de­ter­rent. You get into a sit­u­a­tion like this where they know what’s go­ing on with the math of the sea­son, so it’s tough to say, ‘Don’t care.’ ” Ubaldo gets stand­ing ‘O’: Jimenez walked off the mound to a stand­ing ova­tion from the an­nounced crowd of 20,865, though he lasted only 51⁄ in­nings and left with the Ori­oles in a two-on, one-out jam. He gave up just four hits and left with a zero still on the score­board, but would be charged with two of the five runs the Red Sox would go on to score in the sixth. He also would be charged with the loss, and his record fell to 7-12. Brach’s night­mare: Brach came on in re­lief of Jimenez and im­me­di­ately got into fur­ther trou­ble through no fault of his own. Aaron Hill hit a per­fectly placed nub­ber in front of home plate and beat it out to load the bases. Brach got two strikes on Leon be­fore get­ting an­other poorly hit grounder, which turned the game around. He should have been sit­ting in the dugout when Ben­in­tendi home­red, but it has been that kind of week.

KEN­NETH K. LAM/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

The Red Sox’s An­drew Ben­in­tendi cel­e­brates his three-run sixth-in­ning home run with Sandy Leon, cen­ter, and Aaron Hill.

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