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Closing Time: Sox can’t match zeroes with O’s bullpen in 3-2 loss

04.11.13 at 10:30 pm ET
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The Red Sox this offseason made a concerted effort to build the deepest bullpen possible, hoping to follow the model of success that helped to propel the Orioles to the playoffs last year. But on Thursday, the Sox could not match bullets with Baltimore. The Orioles bullpen held the Sox scoreless for the final 3 2/3 innings, while the Sox allowed Baltimore to scrape a run together in the top of the seventh that proved decisive in Boston’s 3-2 loss, the team’s first series loss of the season.

Here are the details:

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX

– Left-hander Andrew Miller possesses stuff like few other left-handers. However, his inability to throw strikes consistently is becoming a concern for the Sox. With two outs in the seventh, Miller was summoned to handle left-hander Nick Markakis. Instead, he walked the Orioles right fielder on six pitches.

Miller has made four appearances this year. He’s allowed the first one to reach by walk or HBP in three of those. He’s faced a total of eight batters. Just two have made contact. The other six have struck out (twice), walked (three times) or been hit by a pitch (once).

Jackie Bradley Jr. went 0-for-2 with a strikeout before being replaced by pinch-hitter Jonny Gomes in the bottom of the seventh. He’s now 0-for-14 dating back to Friday.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts, failing to sustain the momentum of his 3-for-4 performance with three extra-base hits the previous night.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX

Alfredo Aceves, making his first start in almost two years (his previous one came on June 21, 2011), delivered everything for which the Red Sox reasonably could have hoped. The right-hander employed his full, diverse array of pitches, navigating through five innings of work in which he permitted just two runs on six hits while striking out four and walking three. He totaled 79 pitches.

There is little question about the utility or diversity of Aceves’ pitch mix. He has a starters’ arsenal, though in his limited exposure to the rotation, his tendency to work around the strike zone has limited how deep he can go into the game. Still, his ability to unbalance the Orioles for the better part of his night underscored his value to a pitching staff — making him as asset that, in the eyes of the Red Sox, was not worth sacrificing over the personality quirks and conflicts he’s shown over his Red Sox tenure.

Shane Victorino continued his early-season success as a left-handed hitter, going 2-for-4 in four plate appearances against righties. On the year, the switch-hitter — who is traditionally stronger while batting right-handed — is 8-for-21 (.381) while batting left-handed against righties.

– Right-hander Alex Wilson overcame early nerves (he threw balls on six of his first seven pitches) to record a scoreless ninth inning in his major league debut. After issuing a leadoff walk, he got Nick Markakis to ground weekly into a 6-4-3 double play, then punched out Adam Jones on three pitches (getting swings and misses on both an 0-1 slider down and an 0-2 92 mph fastball up in the zone).

Stephen Drew went 1-for-2 with a pair of walks. However, the one out he made was a big one, as he struck out looking at a full-count fastball with two on and two out in the bottom of the seventh inning.

– The Red Sox had a strikingly unusual putout to end the fifth when Chris Davis‘ smash caromed off the glove of Mike Napoli at first base, to where the second baseman is typically stationed. But with the Sox in a dramatic shift against Davis, in which second baseman Dustin Pedroia was playing the part of the rover in the outfield, Will Middlebrooks ended up scooping up the ball and firing to first for the unconventional 3-5-3 putout to end the inning.

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