BOSTON -- The Fenway Park doldrums continued for the Red Sox on a gloomy Friday night.
Davis’ hit off losing pitcher Franklin Morales followed a single by Matt Wieters and a walk to Wilson Betemit, breaking a 4-4 deadlock that had existed since the sixth inning. Mark Reynolds followed with a sacrifice fly to center off Scott Atchison, giving Orioles closer Jim Johnson a two-run cushion.
The loss was the third in a row for Boston, and the Red Sox’ eighth setback in their last nine games at home. Boston is in last place in the American League East, seven games behind division-leading Tampa Bay.
Morales had entered in the 12th with a runner at second and two outs, and retired Nick Markakis on a weak opposite-field fly ball to shallow left. He wasn’t so fortunate in the 13th, however.
The most impressive pitcher of the night was Red Sox closer Alfredo Aceves. He hurled 2 2/3 scoreless innings, fanning six and permitting only two hits.
Aceves was brought into a tie game in the 10th and turned in a dominant inning, whiffing all three batters he faced.
He buckled J.J. Hardy’s knees with a nasty breaking ball, zipped a high fastball that Markakis couldn’t catch up to and made Adam Jones, the Orioles’ cleanup hitter, look silly in flailing and missing a sharp slider down and away.
Aceves was nearly as dominant in the 11th. He struck out the first two batters of the inning, getting Wieters to swing and miss a slider, and then Betemit swung through a changeup, giving the right-hander five straight strikeouts.
Davis broke the spell with a single to right, but Aceves fanned Reynolds on a curveball that Reynolds couldn’t have reached with three bats, making it six whiffs in two innings. A bunt single and a sacrifice put Endy Chavez on second base in the 12th, but Morales stranded him.
CLEANING UP: When Dustin Pedroia saw the lineup card Friday afternoon, his eyes lit up.
Manager Bobby Valentine did a little tinkering with the batting order and slid Pedroia, the Sox’ diminutive second baseman and a right-handed hitter, down into the cleanup spot. That separated two left-handed hitters, Adrian Gonzalez and David Ortiz, in the lineup.
Pedroia did a little pregame chirping about being in the power spot as the No. 4 hitter, exchanging a high-five with Valentine as the two happened to pass each other in the clubhouse.
And then the unlikely cleanup hitter came through in the clutch, ripping a tie-breaking single in the fifth inning that gave the Red Sox a 4-3 lead.
It’s not as if hitting fourth is totally foreign territory to Pedroia, though. Last year, Pedroia started 25 games in the cleanup spot and batted a sizzling .347 (35 for 101) with five homers and 21 RBIs.
NO DECISION FOR LESTER: Jon Lester labored at times, but lasted six innings and left with a 4-3 lead.
Unfortunately for the left-hander he was unable to extend his string of successes against the Birds, his personal pigeons, because Vicente Padilla coughed up the tying run in the seventh.
Lester had entered the game boasting a 14-0 record in 18 career starts against the Orioles, the first Red Sox pitcher to win that many games in a row against an opponent since Tom Brewer claimed 14 consecutive wins against the Philadelphia and Kansas City Athletics from July 2, 1954 to July 24, 1957.
The last longer streak was Mel Parnell’s 17-gamer against Washington from July 8, 1948 to May 30, 1952. The only other pitcher in the last 50 years who won his first 14 or more decisions against one team was Houston’s Roy Oswalt, who won his first 15 against the Cincinnati Reds from 2001 to 2005.
Friday night Lester allowed three runs on five hits, including a struggling Mark Reynolds’ first homer of the year, snapping the slugging third baseman’s homerless streak at 76 at-bats. Lester walked three and fanned only two in a 99-pitch outing.
SLUMP-BREAKER: Adrian Gonzalez ripped a single to left-center leading off the third inning, snapping an 0-for-18 slump. The Sox first baseman had reached on an error on a routine grounder to second base in his first at-bat. The hit sparked a two-run surge that put the Sox on top, 3-1. He added an infield single in the seventh.
Defensively, Gonzalez, a Gold Glove first baseman, made a poor decision on trying to nail Reynolds moving from second to third on a none-out grounder to first base in the seventh inning. His throw was belated and in the dirt. The Orioles didn’t take full advantage of the extra out, but they did score one run in the inning, tying the game at 4-4.
HEADS-UP ROOKIE: Will Middlebrooks, in his second big-league game, notched his first career Wall ball, a leadoff double in the fifth. And then the third baseman showed good baserunning instincts in tagging up on Gonzalez’ lineout to left-center. He scored from third moments later on Dustin Pedroia’s single to center, putting Boston on top, 4-3.