BOSTON -- Seven losses in their past eight games had been wreaking havoc with Dan Duquette's Darlings of Destiny, aka the Baltimore Orioles.
But with a chance to accelerate what has been widely assumed to be inevitable -- a reshuffling of the AL East standings in which the Orioles would sink to their usual bottom-feeder status -- the Red Sox instead kept the O's afloat with an 8-6, 10-inning loss to Baltimore on a dour, dampish night more suited to April than June.
Not even a game-tying, two-run home run by Jarrod Saltalamacchia with the Sox down to their last strike in regulation could keep the Orioles from climbing back into a first-place tie with the Tampa Bay Rays, while the Sox regained sole possession of last.
The game followed a familiar pattern for Jon Lester -- in seven of his 12 starts, the Sox lefty has been unable to hold a lead -- and a rare stumble by two stalwarts of the Sox bullpen, Scott Atchison and Alfredo Aceves.
With the Sox ahead 4-3, Atchison replaced Lester after Lester allowed a leadoff single to Endy Chavez, the No. 9 hitter in the Orioles' lineup who began the night with an anorexic .120 average. Atchison promptly gave up singles by Robert (Curse of the) Andino and J.J. Hardy that tied the score, the run charged to Lester, who could only watch helplessly from the dugout.
The bases were loaded and the score still tied when Bobby Valentine summoned Matt Albers, and this time it was Atchison playing the role of observer as his streak of 15 consecutive appearances without being charged with a run came to an end, Albers giving up RBI hits to Mark Reynolds and Steve Pearce, a career minor leaguer who has been an Oriole for all of three days.
The Sox still trailed in the ninth when they faced Orioles closer Jim Johnson, who had converted 25 straight save opportunities dating to Aug. 14. David Ortiz hit a one-out single off the Monster, and after Kevin Youkilis popped out, Saltalamacchia reached the front row of the Monster with a game-tying home run, his 11th homer of the season and sixth in his past 14 games.
But Aceves, who had worked a 1-2-3 ninth, couldn't extend the magic, walking Reynolds to open the 10th. Pearce bunted him to second, Ronny Paulino singled him home to break the tie, and hits by Ryan Flaherty, who had entered the game as a defensive replacement, and Chavez produced another run.
Johnson set down the Sox in order in the 10th for the win. The Orioles and Sox have played extra innings three times, all in Boston, all won by the Orioles. Coincidentally, outfielder Darnell McDonald, who was the losing pitcher when the Sox lost in 17 innings on May 6, was activated before the game.
So was Dustin Pedroia, who played with a fitted brace to protect the torn muscle in his right thumb. Pedroia went 0-for-3 with a walk and sacrifice fly.
An error by shortstop Mike Aviles on a double-play ball led to two unearned runs for the Orioles in the third. Aviles tried to compensate with three hits, an RBI and run scored, but the Sox fell short.