Sweep is fitting end to Orioles' nightmare series

A fate the Orioles couldn't even imagine when they led by seven runs with their ace, Jeremy Guthrie, on the mound in Friday's series opener became a reality Monday amid too many defensive miscues, poor relief outings and fruitless at-bats.

The Boston Red Sox completed a four-day humbling of the visitors with a 12-1 victory before a Patriot's Day announced crowd of 37,865 at Fenway Park, the Orioles' fifth straight loss, dropping them below .500 for the first time this season.

It was their ninth straight defeat at Fenway Park, where they are 6-25 since the beginning of the 2006 season, and their seventh straight loss overall to the Red Sox. In Boston's first four-game sweep of its American League East foes since September 2002, the Orioles were outscored 30-7 after taking a 7-0 lead in the top of the second inning of Friday's series opener.

"The way it started, up 7-0, the first day, the last thing that you see coming is four straight losses," Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts said. "It's a tough place to play. They always play well here. They pitched really well, and we didn't do what we needed to do on our end."

The Orioles (6-7) arrived here Thursday feeling pretty good about themselves after taking two of three from the Texas Rangers in their first road series of the year. However, they boarded their charter flight late Monday afternoon with a banged-up roster, some bloated ERAs and newfound questions about their defense, which was expected to be one of the team's strengths.

"All around, this was kind of a terrible series," said Mark Hendrickson, who steadied himself after a rocky start to allow three earned runs in five innings.

"We just didn't do what we needed to do to win games."

Utility man Ryan Freel became the latest Oriole to suffer an injury when he was hit in the side of the head in the third inning by Boston starter Justin Masterson's errant pickoff attempt. Freel, who was sliding headfirst back into second, was helped off the field and taken to a local hospital to undergo a CT scan.

His injury came a day after center fielder Adam Jones was removed from the game with a tight right hamstring, which kept him out of Monday's lineup, and a series after starting third baseman Melvin Mora went on the disabled list with a strained left hamstring.

The injuries have robbed the Orioles of a couple of their better defenders at a time when the team's failure to make some routine defensive plays - along with some difficult ones good teams make - is starting to cost the club.

Shortstop Cesar Izturis' failure to catch Jacoby Ellsbury's leadoff double to shallow left field contributed to the Red Sox's two-run first inning. Normally sure-handed right fielder Nick Markakis overran Rocco Baldelli's drive in the third inning, the error allowing Baldelli to get to third base with two outs. Roberts also watched Ellsbury's hard grounder go under his outstretched glove with two outs in the sixth inning, in which the Red Sox scored three times against reliever Dennis Sarfate to break open what had been a two-run game.

"I think it's just part of the game and you go from there," Orioles manager Dave Trembley said. "We're all very much aware of the importance of the fundamentals."

The Red Sox (7-6) scored six times in the seventh inning off Radhames Liz and Matt Albers to turn the game into a rout and further dent the Orioles' vulnerable pitching staff. On the seven-game road trip, the Orioles' team ERA was 8.08.

"I don't think anybody is worried about it," infielder Ty Wigginton said. "All we can do is come out tomorrow, play the game hard and play the game right, and good things are going to happen."

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