Offense, bullpen unable to handle Sox
Relievers can't hold Boston offense while run support anemic
BALTIMORE -- It had to happen eventually. Two of Baltimore's most reliable relievers stumbled for the first time this season on Wednesday night, when Jamie Walker and Chad Bradford couldn't get out of a crucial jam. Walker and Bradford were the first line of relief, but Boston battled past them for a a 6-1 win.
"It's a heck of situation to have to go to your 'pen right there," said Baltimore manager Sam Perlozzo, speaking of the late 1-1 tie. "We were trying to stay off of the guys. We've been taxing them a little bit lately."
Walker's brief moment came in the seventh inning, but he had one of his toughest assignments of the season. The southpaw specialist was brought in to pitch to Boston slugger David Ortiz with two outs and two runners on base. Walker did his job, but Ortiz fouled off five pitches and blooped a go-ahead hit to short left field.
"No excuses. He's an RBI guy, and he got an RBI off me," Walker said of the key run, which was charged to Baltimore starter Daniel Cabrera. "It cost Daniel an earned run and it probably cost us the game. If I get him out there, the momentum might switch to us and we'd come out and put a two- or three-spot on [Curt] Schilling."
"David's at-bat was tremendous," added Boston manager Terry Francona. "The deeper he got into the count, it looked like the more dangerous he got. And he didn't crush that, but he stayed on it enough to find some outfield grass."
Walker may have induced a defensive swing from one of the game's best clutch hitters, but he wasn't pleased with his performance. The veteran expressed regret at the fact that he had Ortiz on an 0-2 count and wasn't able to put him away, and he also said that he wasn't thrilled with his payoff pitch or the approach to the at-bat.
"I'm never happy when I give up a hit. I'm pretty much a hornet," he said. "I went after him, and the last thing I wanted to do was walk him to load the bases. You can't walk these guys [and] every one of them can go yard. I just went right after him, being aggressive, and I know he's aggressive. He won that battle, but tomorrow's a new day."
"You do the best you can with the guys you got, and we thought our guys were capable of doing it," Perlozzo said. "[Ortiz] could have easily hit that ball a little further and we would've had a nice little out, but that didn't happen."
After the go-ahead hit, Bradford came in and was charged with facing Manny Ramirez, the other megawatt threat in Boston's lineup. Bradford gave up a run-scoring single and walked two straight batters to push home another run. Prior to that sequence, Bradford and Walker had allowed just two earned runs -- and both came in a win.
Only one of the three runs was charged to the relief duo, and Cabrera wore the others. The Orioles (11-10) went to rookie Jim Johnson for the eighth and ninth, and Boston (13-7) piled on two more runs. In the last two days, Baltimore's bullpen has given up five earned runs. Both Bradford and Walker had also pitched on Tuesday.
"They're not going to pitch great every time," Perlozzo said. "That's just a fact."
Cabrera had pitched well for the first six innings, allowing just one run on a home run by Alex Cora. That was the first homer the hulking right-hander had allowed in 57 2/3 innings -- a streak that started last September.
Cabrera (1-2) was over the 100-pitch mark when Perlozzo sent him back out for the seventh, and he wound up walking the first batter on five pitches. Cabrera got an out on a sacrifice bunt and a fly ball, but he walked first baseman Kevin Youkilis to bring up Ortiz and set up the game's climactic moment. Cabrera threw 117 pitches.
"That's not very many pitches for a starter. We get caught up in that fact," said Perlozzo, who also stated that Cabrera could throw 120 pitches or more. "I mean, he's capable of doing that. I think Erik Bedard is, Adam [Loewen] is and I thought we let [Steve] Trachsel go a few more. But that's not that many pitches, really. If we can get them stretched out and realize they can go a little longer in ballgames, that's really their role."
Schilling had a strong night of his own, working seven innings and allowing one run on a homer by Miguel Tejada. Tejada hadn't homered since Opening Day, but he's working on a 10-game hit streak. Schilling (3-1) had a scare in the seventh, when he gave up two two-out singles and served up a long warning-track out to Brian Roberts.
The Orioles have lost three straight games, a skid that comes directly on the heels of a four-game winning streak. Baltimore had just two hits in the first six innings and pushed just two runners into scoring position. On the defensive side, Corey Patterson saved a few more runs with a highlight reel catch at the wall in the ninth inning.
"I thought it was way gone, myself," Perlozzo said of the leaping grab. "He made a great catch."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.