By Eduardo A. Encina
The Baltimore Sun
8:14 PM EDT, April 8, 2013
BOSTON — Anyone taking a glimpse of Fenway Park’s iconic Green Monster can’t miss the posting of the American League East standings, which after Tuesday's off day will show the Orioles with a losing record for the first time since the end of the 2011 season.
The Orioles’ 3-1 loss to the Red Sox in Boston’s home opener Monday, marked the Orioles (3-4) first three-game losing streak since last July 23-25. However, the loss comes just seven games into this young season, prompting the Orioles to scoff at the notion that these consecutive losses give any reason to worry heading into Tuesday’s first off day of the season.
“We might spend it all day tomorrow crying as a team, holding each other’s hands, just walking through the Prudential Center, just crying,” said center fielder Adam Jones, sarcastically. “It’s seven games into the season. It’s not like we just got blown out. We got beat.”
After opening the season 3-1 and averaging more than seven runs a game, the Orioles are averaging just three runs in their last three games. All four of the Orioles’ losses have been decided by two or fewer runs.
“One-run games [and] two-run games, it can go here, it can go there,” added Jones, who was responsible for the Orioles’ sole run, a homer in the ninth. “We’re playing good baseball. We’ve got 155 more to go. … A lot of games to go. The season’s not decided today, is it?”
Fenway is a place where last year’s Orioles dominated — winning seven of nine and all three series in Boston. And Orioles manager Buck Showalter always talks about how the key to winning is extending the peaks and shortening the valleys during the grind of a 162-game schedule.
Only one of the Orioles’ eight losing streaks of three or more games last season went longer than three games. That was a six-game losing streak in late-May that included a rare clubhouse meeting called by Showalter in Toronto.
Now, the Orioles will have a day to rest and make sure three losses don’t turn into more.
“I think this off day is very much needed,” catcher Matt Wieters said. “The opening week can be very difficult with day game, night game, day game, things like that, so it’s nice to get a day off and get back in that normal schedule like it will be for the rest of the year.”
On Monday, the Orioles offense failed to support starter Wei-Yin Chen, who held the Red Sox scoreless over his first six innings of work. Chen didn’t allow a hit until the fourth inning.
But it all unraveled quickly for Chen in the seventh inning after Daniel Nava’s three-run homer over the Green Monster in left field.
The big inning for the Red Sox (5-2) began when Dustin Pedroia led off the seventh with an infield single that shortstop J.J. Hardy scooped up on the outfield grass but couldn’t make the throw on. Mike Napoli followed with a double off the Green Monster in left center field. And two batters later, Nava chased Chen from the game by taking a 1-1 outside fastball over the high wall in left.
“He was great,” Showalter said of Chen. “One mistake. We didn't do much offensively. … Boy, I was real proud of Wei-Yin. Lot of things working against him and he gave us a real good chance to win. I wish we could have gotten one for him. He deserved a W today.”
Chen (0-1) is winless in his past nine starts dating back to Aug. 19. In that span, the Orioles have scored just 15 runs — an average of 1.7 a game — while Chen was in the game. And in his last 26 starts dating back to last season, the Orioles have scored three or fewer runs while he was in the game 18 times.
The Orioles had their opportunities to break through against Boston starter Clay Buchholz — who tossed seven shutout innings and allowed three hits.
Chen had pitched well against the Red Sox, compiling a 2-0 mark with a 2.50 ERA in three previous starts against Boston. And Chen retired nine of the first 10 hitters he faced and didn’t allow a baserunner to reach second until the fateful seventh inning.
“Compared with last outing, I feel like I’m getting better and better,” said Chen, who allowed two runs over 5 2/3 innings in his regular season debut on Wednesday, said through interpreter Tim Lin. “But the baseball god [was] not with me today.”
The Orioles placed the leadoff runner on base in the first, second and fourth innings — and had runners at first and second with one out in the third — against Buchholz, but couldn’t plate a run.
They also stranded Wieters at second base in the second when Buchholz struck out designated hitter Steve Pearce to end the seventh. Orioles designated hitters are 1-for-23 on the season.
“We had some opportunities,” said Jones, who struck out looking on a curveball with two on and two outs in the third. “And Buchholz, he’s good for a reason. He knows how to stop the running game. He knows how to get some double plays. He knows what he’s doing. There’s a reason why he’s in the position he’s in.”
The Orioles’ only run came in the top of the ninth on Jones’ solo homer over the Green Monster, his first of the season, off Boston reliever Joel Hanrahan.The Orioles still brought the tying run to the plate in the ninth after J.J. Hardy’s two-out double, but Maine native Ryan Flaherty popped out to end the game.
While Wieters echoed that there’s no need to panic this early in the season, he noted that there’s something different through the season’s first week.
“I think the big thing is you have to have those shutdown innings and we had some innings where we scored some runs and they scored one or two,” Wieters said. “There have been innings where the other team has scored runs and we haven't been able to answer. And those are big innings in the course of the game and the course of the year. Hopefully, moving forward we’ll be able to improve on that.”
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