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BAL@BOS: Jones singles home Hardy in the first inning

BOSTON -- Orioles manager Buck Showalter cautioned last week that, for better or worse, a team's play heading into the All-Star break has a tendency to snowball. In that case, consider the O's well over the ledge.

A night removed from a series sweep in Texas, and a verbal lashing from its manager postgame, Baltimore (36-49) continued its backslide into midseason in what has been a hallmark of the last month: ineffective pitching and unproductive hitting.

How badly are things going for the Orioles? Even the defense isn't going their way, with a blown call underscoring, but by no means providing, the only cause in a Thursday's dismal 10-4 loss to the Red Sox, a game in which Baltimore sputtered in every facet.

"There's so many ways you can answer that question," said Orioles outfielder Adam Jones, who -- like many of his teammates -- struggled to describe the alarming events that have resulted in losses in nine of their last 10 games and 18 of 24.

"Frustration is definitely there," he added. "But it does no good to call people out or say, 'This guy isn't doing this, this guy isn't doing that.' We, we, we, have to do better. We have to get better than this. There's nothing more I can say. We just have to get better."

Thursday's loss marked the third time in four games the O's have allowed 10 or more runs, a stretch in which they have been outscored, 40-15. Their offense -- which went 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position -- has a .173 RISP average since June 11, while their defense has coughed up 14 unearned runs in 24 games.

Baltimore's 19th error over that stretch, charged to starter Jake Arrieta in the fourth, provided a contentious and costly go-ahead run to score in what was then a closely contested game. But by the time the dust settled three hours later, it was a mere blip on the radar of the 37,981 at Fenway Park, who witnessed a struggling Baltimore squad sink a season-high 13 games under .500.

"Those are series you want to win and expect to win," Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia said. "If you're trying to win, those are games that might come back to get you down the road. But those are no easy wins."

Boston certainly made it look that way.

Thursday's series opener started, as it so often has in the O's decline since posting a 30-31 record on June 10, with another disappointing outing from their starting pitcher. Arrieta set the tone, lasting just 4 1/3 innings and surrendering five runs (four earned) on six hits and four walks, including an intentional walk to David Ortiz.

Ortiz was one of six Red Sox who homered -- taking Pedro Viola deep in the seventh -- in a game that saw the Orioles take a 2-0 lead and watch Boston turn it into a laser show.

Arrieta surrendered the first homer, issuing a pair of walks to start the third and going 3-0 on Pedroia, who sent a ball over the Green Monster in left two pitches later. Adrian Gonzalez homered one out into the fourth, and reliever Jason Berken surrendered a two-run blast to Jacoby Ellsbury before Viola allowed a trio of consecutive homers in the seventh.

Promoted from Double-A Bowie on June 30, Viola became the first Baltimore pitcher since Jeremy Guthrie on May 29, 2009, to surrender three straight homers, pushing Boston to double digits in the process.

But the staff, for all its struggles, wasn't solely to blame, as an erratic offense continued to show its inability to capitalize in key situations. Fresh off getting swept by the Rangers in a three-game series in which they didn't have a hit with a runner in scoring position until Wednesday's finale, the Orioles left five men on base in the the first three innings alone.

The O's jumped on Red Sox starter Andrew Miller for a pair of first-inning runs, starting the game with three consecutive singles, and had a chance to do more if not for Vladimir Guerrero's double play, the first of several crippling groundouts. Derrek Lee -- whose homer Wednesday snapped an 0-for-10 mark with runners in scoring position -- hit into an inning-ending double play in the fifth and continues to struggle with men on base, posting a .131 (8-for-61) season RISP average.

"It's definitely frustrating," shortstop J.J. Hardy said of the club's recent struggles. "You go out there and battle, and it's just kind of one of those stretches where things really aren't going our way. We have to do something to turn it around, and get some stuff to go our way a little bit."

Said Arrieta, who who hasn't made it to the sixth in his last three starts: "It's tough, mentally and emotionally. The physical part is there. I've had the opportunity to be that guy [to stop this] twice in a row, in Atlanta and then here tonight in Boston. I wasn't able to get it done. It's tough for myself and the rest of the guys. It doesn't feel good."

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