The Red Sox closed out their month of September — and the American League portion of their regular season schedule — by dropping a crucial series to the last-place Orioles at Camden Yards on Thursday.
Boston fell to Baltimore, 6-2, marking their fifth loss in their last six games and one that will have plenty of Wild Card implications.
Matched up against O’s starter Alexander Wells to begin things on Thursday, the Sox received an early boost from leadoff man Enrique Hernandez, who took the very first pitch he saw in the top half of the first inning — an 84 mph fastball at the top of the zone — and belted it 409 feet over the wall in left-center field.
Hernandez’s 19th home run of the season, and sixth of the leadoff variety, left his bat at 107.1 mph. It also gave Boston an immediate 1-0 lead for Nick Pivetta.
Pivetta, making his 30th start of the season for the Red Sox, came out strong on Thursday, retiring each of the first six Orioles batters he faced (four via the strikeout) in order before running into some trouble in the bottom of the third.
There, the right-hander’s difficulties began when he issued a leadoff walk to Tyler Nevin and promptly spiked a wild pitch while Pat Valaika was at the plate that allowed Nevin to advance up to second base.
Valaika moved Nevin up to third on a hard-hit single and advanced into scoring position himself on another wild pitch from Pivetta that put two runners in scoring position with no outs.
While he did manage to get the first two outs of the inning on a pair of punch outs, Pivetta was unable to get through the third unscathed — as he served up a towering three-run blast to Ryan Mountcastle on a first-pitch, 95 mph heater that saw his side’s 1-0 lead turn into a 3-1 deficit.
After recording the final out of the third and tossing a scoreless fourth inning, Pivetta’s night ultimately came to an end when he yielded a leadoff double to Valaika and got the first two outs of the fifth.
At that point, Red Sox manager Alex Cora opted to intentionally put the dangerous Mountcastle on base, which resulted in him giving Pivetta the hook in favor of Ryan Brasier.
Finishing with a final pitch count of 87 (52 strikes), the 28-year-old hurler wound up allowing a total of three runs (all earned) on four hits and two walks to go along with eight strikeouts over 4 2/3 innings of work.. He was later dealt his eighth losing decision of the season in the process of raising his ERA on the year to 4.56.
In relief of Pivetta, Brasier officially closed the book on the starter’s night by getting Austin Hays to ground into an inning-ending force out at second base.
Garrett Richards took over for Brasier in the sixth, and he gave up a pair of singles to put runners at first and second with one out and spiked a wild pitch that advanced those runners at second and third before giving up a two-run double to Nevin that put the O’s up, 5-1.
Nevin moved up to second base on his single courtesy of a throwing error from Alex Verdugo, and — after being pinch-ran for by Ryan McKenna — advanced to third on yet another wild pitch from Richards.
Baltimore took advantage of Richards’ lack of command when Valaika plated McKenna from third on a sacrifice fly to center field that increased their lead to five runs at 6-1.
Boston was able to get one of those runs back in the top half of the seventh, though they certainly could have gotten more.
J.D. Martinez led things off against newly-inserted Orioles reliever Joey Krehbiel by lacing a line-drive double off the glove of center fielder Cedric Mullins. He, as well as Hunter Renfroe, advanced an additional 90 feet when Verdugo grounded out softly to first base.
With Travis Shaw at the plate pinch-hitting for Kevin Plawecki, Martinez scored from third when one of Krehbiel’s pitches eluded Pedro Severino behind the dish. That made it a 6-2 game.
Renfroe also moved up to third base on Krehbiel’s wild pitch, but went no further than there with Shaw fanning on a foul tip and Jose Iglesias lining out to Mountcastle at first.
After Adam Ottavino worked a scoreless bottom of the seventh with some help from Christian Vazquez — who took over catching duties for Plawecki and promptly threw out his 18th base runner of the season to end the inning, the Sox again had a chance to mount a rally of sorts in the eighth.
Kyle Schwarber drew a one-out walk off Dillon Tate, but a slumping Xander Bogaerts followed by grounding into an inning-ending 5-4-3 double play.
Matt Barnes maneuvered his way around a one-out single in an otherwise clean bottom of the eighth to keep the deficit at four, though Boston was not able to reward him for his efforts.
That being the case because the likes of Rafael Devers, Martinez, Renfroe, and Verdugo went down quietly to wrap up a 6-2 defeat as well as one of the more disappointing series of the year to date.
With the loss, not only do the Red Sox fall to 89-70 on the season, but they also drop to two games back of the Yankees for the top American League Wild Card spot and into a virtual tie with the Mariners for the second and final spot.
The Yankees defeated the Blue Jays on Thursday, while the Mariners had the day off.
Next up: On to D.C.
The Red Sox will make the short trek from Baltimore to the nation’s capital to take on the 65-94 Nationals in their final series of the regular season.
With plenty on the line in regards to postseason hopes and aspirations, left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez will get the ball for Boston on Friday opposite fellow southpaw Josh Rogers for Washington.
First pitch from Nationals Park Friday is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. eastern time on NESN.
(Picture of Xander Bogaerts: Rob Carr/Getty Images)