Lester pitched well. He gave up more hits and pitched less innings than I would have liked, but he pitched well. He walked one and struck out five. He lasted six innings and threw ninety-nine pitches. He gave up four runs on eight hits, but only two of his runs were earned. In the third, Aviles made an epically egregious fielding error that resulted in a runner being safe at first and a runner moving to second. Both runners then scored on back-to-back singles. Lester allowed a double to lead off the sixth, which resulted in another run via a sac fly. And finally, Lester allowed a single to begin the seventh before he was relieved by Atchison, who allowed back-to-back singles that resulted in his inherited runner scoring.
So Lester left us with a one-run lead. After that, Atchison got the first out of the inning but then advanced the runner to second on a wild pitch and then issued an intentional walk. He was then relieved by Albers, who promptly gave up two back-to-back RBI singles.
As for us, we were late to join the scoring party; we didn’t get on the board until the fifth, and even that was manufactured by us; the Orioles didn’t really give us much to work with that inning. Nava and Aviles hit back-to-back singles, and then Podsednik reached on a fielder’s choice, which, coupled with a fielding error, resulted in Nava scoring and Aviles and Podsednik moving up a base. So when Pedroia hit a sac fly, Aviles scored.
We kept our momentum going in the next inning, which was started by Salty striking out. Then Sweeney walked, and Nava and Aviles hit back-to-back singles, which scored Sweeney. Nava scored on a sac fly by Podsednik.
So at that point, the Orioles were leading us, 6-4. Lester’s unbeaten streak against Baltimore was at stake, but more importantly, so was our collective dignity and ability to perform. We hadn’t had too many big opportunities throughout the game; we had two on with one out in the third, we had one on second with two out in the fourth, and we had one on third with two out in the seventh. Other than that, a single here, a walk there, but no real gem of an opportunity that we’d necessarily blown.
Still, two runs was well within our reach, but the way the game had been going, it would take something big to make that tie. Something powerful. Something that started with “home” and ended with “run.”
Fortunately, Salty was of a similar mind, and the stage was set for some major heroics. Gonzalez began the ninth inning by grounding out. But then Papi doubled. Youk popped out, and Salty stepped to the plate and, down to the game’s last strike, let one rip out of the ballpark. You could tell it was going to be out, but you almost didn’t want to believe it, because that’s how much we needed it. The ball bounced just off the top of the Monster, but not even a review of the play could keep it in check. It was huge. It was exactly what we needed.
But it wasn’t enough. Sweeney grounded out to end the inning, and while it was certainly a valiant effort, it wasn’t a walkoff, and that was what we really needed, because Baltimore came right back in the top of the tenth. Aceves relieved Albers in the ninth and got through that just fine, but he imploded in the tenth. He gave up a walk, a sacrifice, and three consecutive singles, two of which resulted in RBIs, effectively erasing what we should all applaud as an extremely gritty, resilient, determined effort by Salty to put us right back in it.
And then we went down in order in the bottom of the tenth. The final score was 8-6. Atchison received a blown save, and Aceves took the loss.
So the whole thing was just brutally crushing and disappointing. First, we were losing. Then, all of a sudden, after one swing of the bat, we were tied; the score was even, and anything was possible. And then, the whole thing was completely erased by a closing performance that can only be described as subpar, and that’s putting it exceptionally mildly. Aceves is supposed to be our closer. The whole purpose of a closer is for situations exactly like this; a closer is someone you should be able to trust, in theory, with a tied score in extra innings, and Aceves completely betrayed that trust because he threw away the game. That was the game right there; he literally had it in his hands, and he blew it.