Sox suffer rare loss at Fenway

Sox suffer rare loss at Fenway

BOSTON -- Without warning, the highly unusual occurred on Friday night. The Red Sox bats, almost ridiculous with their production at Fenway Park over the past few weeks, were held stone-cold silent.

And without the element that has carried a hot team on its collective back of late, the Red Sox suffered a 7-3 loss to the Orioles. In just their second loss in the past 21 home games, the Red Sox were held to four hits by unheralded rookie John Maine, who allowed just two hits and two earned runs over his five innings, and a collection of Baltimore relievers.

It also snapped a streak of 14 straight home games of seven runs or more for the Sox. How quiet were the Red Sox in this one? They didn't have a hit between the second and eighth innings.

"We didn't score seven runs tonight, so that's why we didn't win. Good night," David Ortiz said with a joking tone in his voice.

All kidding aside, the offense, which leads the American League in most of the relevant offensive categories, was due for a night of being held in shutdown mode.

"It's definitely very surprising," said Red Sox center fielder Johnny Damon. "We expect to get hits, and we expect to score lots of runs. That's been our bread and butter. This team we have, we plan to go out there and hit the ball hard."

Red Sox left-hander Lenny DiNardo, who stepped in for the suspended David Wells to make his first Major League start, deserved a better fate. He went six innings while scattering seven hits and allowing four runs -- just one earned. DiNardo struck out six.

"I took some negatives and some positives," said DiNardo. "I thought overall I pitched OK. The first couple innings, I definitely had some butterflies, and it showed. After that, I settled down and finished my pitches off and got the ball down."

And, for a short time, DiNardo had a lead. The Red Sox got him some runs early, as Jason Varitek cranked a two-run double to left with two outs in the bottom of the first.

But the Orioles came out swinging in the top of the second.

Javy Lopez hit a crisp shot down the line that Bill Mueller couldn't handle. The play was ruled an error and started a rally for the Orioles.

With two outs, DiNardo walked Eric Byrnes and then gave up an RBI single to Chris Gomez. Luis Matos drilled a two-run double to left, giving the Orioles a 3-2 lead. Alejandro Freire made it a two-run edge for the Orioles by belting his first Major League homer to lead off the fourth.

The best chance the Sox had all night came when Damon stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the fourth. While Damon made solid contact, the result was just a sacrifice fly to the warning track, cutting the deficit to a run.

"The ball I hit with the bases loaded, I got into it. The ball just wasn't carrying like it normally does," said Damon.

While the Red Sox did their best to hang close despite the lack of offense, the Orioles tacked on a couple in the seventh against Boston's bullpen. Brian Roberts delivered an RBI double off Matt Perisho, and Miguel Tejada stroked an RBI single up the middle against Chad Bradford.

Down three runs, Red Sox manager Terry Francona went to Keith Foulke, marking the closer's first outing since July 4. The right-hander, who is coming off left knee surgery, surrendered a bloop single to center and induced Lopez into a flyout to right, ending the inning and keeping it a close game at 6-3.

But the bats, perhaps weary from all they've done in recent weeks, didn't have a comeback in them this time.

"That's the way it's been going," said Red Sox first baseman John Olerud. "We've been scoring a lot of runs and getting a lot of hits, so you keep waiting for the hits to come. We just didn't get it going."

The one type of pitcher that has been able to hold down the Red Sox over the past two years is one they aren't familiar with. Maine fit that bill.

"Some guys really didn't look too comfortable," said Damon. "It seems like these young pitchers always do that to us. We haven't really seen them too much, so we might have been guessing a lot more."

Ian Browne is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.