Why would they? There were so many factors on their side, so many things going their way. Starter John Smoltz breezed through the first four innings while his teammates banged out 11 hits and took an eight-run lead into the bottom of the fifth. Plus, they'd beaten the Orioles eight straight times.
But Mother Nature caused some trouble, and things fell apart very quickly. A 71-minute rain delay ended Smoltz's night. The game went to the bullpen, and the relievers couldn't get anyone out. Even closer Jonathan Papelbon couldn't come through, and a nine-run lead was washed away, with the Orioles rallying for a stunning 11-10 victory at Camden Yards.
Baltimore (35-42) scored five runs in each of the seventh and eighth innings en route to the biggest comeback in franchise history -- breaking a record set with an eight-run comeback over the Red Sox on Sept. 2, 1956.
The comeback was also the biggest ever by a last-place team over a first-place team.
Those two innings left manager Terry Francona shaking his head and looking for answers.
"Thirteen hits in two innings," Francona said. "We just had no answer. We went through just about everybody. There were balls everywhere. We gave up 13 hits [in two innings]. That was as bad as we've seen. Nothing we did worked."
By the time it was over, the bullpen had given up a total of 10 runs on 13 hits in four innings.
"It kind of happened real fast," second baseman Dustin Pedroia said. "It seemed like the first five innings ... before the rain delay, we beat up on them pretty good. We came back, and they beat up on us pretty good. It was a weird game."
At first it appeared that the bullpen wouldn't be too involved in Tuesday night's story, as Smoltz was well on the way to his first Boston win. He needed just 52 pitches to get through four innings, but at the end of the top of the fifth, the skies opened up and left the umpires little choice but to halt the game.
Francona said that the Red Sox (47-30) wanted to bring back Smoltz for a win, but as the delay lengthened, the team didn't think it was wise.
"It just didn't make sense," Francona said.
Boston had helped Smoltz early with some big hits. Kevin Youkilis belted a two-run homer in the first, and Pedroia hit a two-run double in the second. Jacoby Ellsbury banged out two hits in a five-run fourth that helped the Red Sox to an eight-run edge. One of those hits was a solo homer, the other an RBI single.
Pedroia added an RBI single in the seventh for what seemed like a meaningless insurance run and a nine-run lead. That's when everything fell apart.
Justin Masterson had no trouble at first, striking out four over two perfect innings. But the Orioles' offense awakened in the seventh, getting a spark from Oscar Salazar's pinch-hit three-run homer and three innings of solid relief from Mark Hendrickson (3-4).
"[I] missed my spots, and they struck them well," Masterson said. "They got a few balls that just didn't go anybody's way."
Boston maintained a four-run lead after seven innings, but the bullpen faced more trouble in the eighth. Hideki Okajima started the inning by allowing four consecutive hits, and Takashi Saito (2-1) entered with one run in, no outs and the bases loaded. Pinch-hitter Ty Wigginton lined to right for a sacrifice fly, and Brian Roberts singled to make it 10-9. That's when Papelbon came on.
Papelbon struck out Felix Pie for the second out before Nick Markakis lined a first-pitch fastball to deep left-center, scoring two runs and giving the Orioles an 11-10 lead.
"You've got to give that team over there credit," Papelbon said. "They put the pressure on our bullpen tonight, and we pretty much imploded. I can't think of any better word to use. It's just what happened."
The Red Sox threatened in the ninth against Orioles closer George Sherrill. Jeff Bailey led off with a single. Sherrill hit Youkilis with two outs to put runners at first and second, but he struck out Jason Bay to end the game.
Though the first part of the game belonged to the Red Sox, it was a different story after the rain delay. Most of the players ran off the field with just two outs in the Orioles sixth, thinking the inning was over, then the bullpen couldn't hold a nine-run lead and Papelbon blew a save for just the second time this year and the first time in 21 chances against Baltimore. He also missed his first chance to become the team's all-time saves leader.
"It just didn't end the way we wanted to," Francona said.
Jeff Seidel is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less