Dice-K's struggles continue against O's

Dice-K's struggles continue against O's

BOSTON -- The revitalized Orioles visited Fenway Park on Monday night and took the first game of their final series against the Red Sox, 4-2.

Going back to their last visit, the Orioles have won back-to-back games at Fenway for the first time since winning four straight from Sept. 23, 2004, to May 30, 2005. They are 11-4 in their last 15 games and 12-3 in the opening game of their last 15 series.

The Red Sox, meanwhile, fell to 1-3 on their current homestand against the two teams trailing them in the American League East. The loss to the O's was just their fourth in their last 21 meetings at Fenway. They are now 4-3 against Baltimore at Fenway this season, the most home losses they have suffered against the O's since going 6-3 in 2007.

With 12 games left on their slate, the Red Sox trail the Yankees by eight games in the AL East and sit 6 1/2 back of the Rays in the AL Wild Card chase.

Daisuke Matsuzaka took the loss, giving up four runs on six hits and five walks with four strikeouts over 6 1/3 innings. He threw 109 pitches, 71 for strikes. Matsuzaka is winless since Sept. 2 in Baltimore and is now 1-2 with a 7.56 ERA in three starts against the O's this season.

"The result, the fact that we lost the game, I think that says it all," Matsuzaka (9-6, 4.86 ERA) said of his outing.

It was the seventh consecutive start in which Matsuzaka has given up at least four earned runs, extending a career high. He is 1-3 with a 6.91 ERA in that stretch.

"I don't think it's any one or two specific reasons. I really don't know," Matsuzaka said of his recent run of ineffectiveness. "Today, partway through, I felt I was getting better and I thought I'd be able to limit it to the first two runs."

David Hernandez, who relieved O's starter Brian Matusz, got the win.

The Orioles got an early jump on Matsuzaka. Brian Roberts opened the game with a single to right on Matsuzaka's second pitch and Nick Markakis followed with a walk. Roberts went to third on Ty Wigginton's flyout to Ryan Kalish in center and scored on Luke Scott's sacrifice fly to center.

Two of the five walks Matsuzaka issued went on to score.

"Walks have a way of coming back to score," manager Terry Francona said. "Not all the time, but even when they don't, you have to pitch out of the stretch. It makes it a lot more difficult inning."

Matsuzuka needed 22 pitches to get through the first inning. He has given up at least one run in the opening frame in 10 of his 23 starts this season.

"I don't mean this in a comical way, but you have no choice but to be patient, because the tempo is going to be such with him," said O's manager Buck Showalter. "You just can't let him lull you to sleep and wanting it to happen too fast. Watching the game, you think he's got 150 pitches and he's only got 80 or 90. He gave them a chance to win, but we pitched a little bit better tonight."

The Sox responded in the home half of the first, when the first three batters reached base. Marco Scutaro led off with a walk from O's left-hander Brian Matusz, took third on Darnell McDonald's single to center and scored on Victor Martinez's single to right.

Matusz went five innings, giving up one run on three hits and three walks with four strikeouts.

"Man, you know what, he has some good stuff, man," Martinez said. "He has a great changeup. When he gets that pitch working, that's when he really gets tough, because you can't really tell [between] his changeup and his fastball. The ball is just coming out of his hands, coming really white, [you] can't see anything. It just looks like a fastball coming out of his hands. That's what makes him tough and just able to spot his fastball and let the other pitches work."

The O's went ahead, 2-1, in the fourth as Matt Wieters led off with a walk. Felix Pie's one-out single sent Wieters to second. It appeared Matsuzaka would get out of the jam on a ground ball from Cesar Izturis to Martinez at first base. But Martinez's throw to shortstop Jed Lowrie at second base sailed into left field, allowing Wieters to score, with Pie getting thrown out at third.

"It's an error. It happened," said Martinez, who was charged with his fifth error of the season. "We were able to come back, but it happened."

The Sox tied the game again in the sixth off Hernandez (8-8). With one out, Mike Lowell walked and Lowrie was hit by a pitch. Bill Hall's single to right scored Lowell, but that's all Boston could muster, as an inning-ending double play ended the threat. After Jason Varitek struck out, Hall took off from first base and Wieters threw to Izturis. With the ball heading to second base, Lowrie broke for the plate, but Izturis threw back to Wieters to nab Lowrie.

"We put the runner in motion, I swung at a bad pitch," Varitek said.

The O's carried the momentum into the seventh and came away with two runs. With one out, Roberts walked and Markakis doubled, ending Matsuzaka's outing. Daniel Bard, who had allowed only 12 of 41 of inherited runners to score previously, was unable to keep runs off the scoreboard this time, as Roberts scored on Wigginton's sacrifice fly and Markakis scampered home on Luke Scott's single to right.

Prior to Monday's game, Wigginton was 2-for-6 with a strikeout and a sacrifice against Bard. Only the Yankees' Mark Teixeira (4-for-11) has faced Bard more.

"[Bard's] definitely got one of the better arms in the game," Wigginton said. "I think the more times you see a guy, the more and more you get a better expectation of what you are going to get. And I think that could have played a major role in it."

Which would do little to appease Bard.

"Dice-K, he struggled early and he pitched his butt off," Bard said. "To pitch deep into that game, he gave us a chance to win. Two guys on, one out, that's my job, [to] come in and put that out, and [I] wasn't able to do it. [I] had a chance, got to two strikes with the guys I faced and just wasn't able to finish anybody."

Maureen Mullen is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.