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Orioles Belt Out 12 Hits as Pitchers Quiet Red Sox

Baltimore Orioles Adam Jones connects for a sacrifice fly scoring a run against the Boston Red Sox in the third inning of a baseball game Tuesday, April 26, 2011 in Baltimore.(AP Photo/Gail Burton)

There wasn’t one big hit by the Baltimore Orioles Tuesday night that the Boston Red Sox could blame for their 4-1 loss to the Orioles at Camden Yards. No, it was all the little hits that did Boston in.

Twelve, to be exact.

Clay Buchholz gave up four runs on 12 hits – only two for extra bases – and two walks in 6.2 innings Tuesday. The Orioles, meanwhile, got excellent pitching from starter Zach Britton, reliever Jim Johnson and closer Kevin Gregg, who combined to hold the Red Sox to just one earned run on six hits and two walks.

Buchholz Never Finds His Groove

Buchholz never settled into a rhythm Tuesday night. There were no 1-2-3 innings, and the Orioles put multiple men on base in four separate innings. In each of those four, the Orioles came away with a run.

Three of Baltimore’s runs came via sacrifice flies, two by center fielder Adam Jones in the third and fifth innings, which gave the Orioles leads of 2-0 and 3-1.

The Orioles took a 1-0 lead in the second on an infield single that catcher Matt Wieters bounced down the first-base line. Adrian Gonzalez came in to field the ball, but it bounced off the bag and rolled towards second, allowing Wieters to safely reach.

Buchholz did not have a consistent out pitch Tuesday. His fastball was usually elevated, his breaking ball around the strike-zone but rarely in it. This lead to twice as many fly outs (10) to ground outs (five), plus all but maybe two hits lining into the outfield, and the aforementioned three sacrifice flies. Orioles hitters fouled off 20 Buchholzs pitches, and he got only 10 called strikes (and 12 swinging strikes).

Red Sox Hitters Stifled

Only two Red Sox got on base more than once Tuesday night: Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz. Both went 1-3 with a walk (Ortiz also reached on an error in the fourth); there were no Red Sox with multi-hit games.

Pedroia scored the lone Red Sox run in the top of the fourth. After singling, taking second on a Gonzalez ground out and stealing third base, Kevin Youkilis drove him in with a sacrifice fly. Pedroia also fielded a grounder in the fourth on a lay-out dive, then threw from his knees to first base for the out.

The Red Sox only had two real scoring opportunities besides the top of the fourth, and Britton quelled both of them. In the fifth, Britton got Gonzalez to hit into a fielder’s choice at second. In the sixth, with two men on, Britton got Carl Crawford (0-4 with two strikeouts) to fly out to center.

Gonzalez tried to make up for his fifth-inning failure with a lead-off double in the top of the eighth, but reliever Johnson set down the next three Red Sox in order. Johnson struck out four in two innings of work.

Gregg worked a perfect top of the ninth for his third save.

Missing from Tuesday’s game was Boston’s trademark patience at the plate. Boston averaged less than four pitches per at-bat, 11 times putting the ball in play before a third pitch was thrown. Though the Red Sox grabbed four hits with early swings, they also squandered their sixth-inning scoring opportunity with a one-pitch out.

The Red Sox continue to struggle against lefties, and they’ve always been weaker against young, lesser-known pitchers. The fact that Britton had the Red Sox swinging so early in at-bats shows just how off-balance he had them all night long. Only a high pitch count knocked him out of the game (he still picked up his fourth win, going six innings and giving up just the one run), but his relievers picked up right where he left off, keeping Boston uncomfortable at the plate.

The Red Sox missed an opportunity Tuesday to finally get back to .500, and also gain a game on the first-place New York Yankees. Had they won, Boston’s victory would have finally washed away the first 12 games of the season, in which they went 2-10. Instead, the climb out of their early-season hole will have to wait at least two more days.

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