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Thursday, April 11, 2013
Rapid Reaction: Orioles 3, Red Sox 2

By Tony Lee, Special to ESPNBoston.com



BOSTON -- The 2013 Red Sox have lost their luster. At least for now.

In front of many empty seats (more on that in a bit) on a chilly night that ended in a steady rain, five Baltimore Orioles pitchers scattered eight singles and got just enough offense to take a lackluster game by a 3-2 score and hand the Boston Red Sox their first series loss in 2013.

Here's some of what we saw along the way:

A roller-coaster ride: That's what Alfredo Aceves' Red Sox career has felt like. Some ups (most of 2011), some downs (most of 2012), a whole mess of head-scratching moments. There have been arguments to make him a full-time starter, and others to flat-out release him. In giving up five runs in his first 4 2/3 innings out of the pen to begin the year, there was another dip in the ride and many detractors lined up to slam his mere presence.

Then there was Thursday, a reminder as to why an organization somewhat thin on pitching depth absolutely has to have a guy like Aceves around. The day after a rain-delayed affair saw Boston use five relievers, and with the other team limiting Boston's offense, Aceves did his part to get this one to the latter portions with the Sox in fine shape, tied 2-2. He didn't clinch the Cy Young Award yet, but five solid innings (two runs on six hits and three walks with four strikeouts) is just about the best the home team could hope for.

And they'll likely hope for it again in Cleveland next week.

Perfect no more: Koji Uehara has drawn rave reviews in his short time as a Red Sox reliever, and likely will continue to do so -- he has been one of the American League's top relievers over the past few seasons. He will, however, make mistakes.

After breezing through his first three innings with Boston in a total of only 26 pitches, Uehara's first offering out of the pen Thursday night was a splitter with little dip whatsoever, and Adam Jones ripped it into the left-field corner for an RBI double that snapped the 2-2 tie.

There's no mistaking that the Red Sox bullpen has potential and, at times, has looked rather dominant this season. It's also clear that some guys are still getting their feet wet out there. The Jones hit came after Andrew Miller came on to face lefty Nick Markakis (and lefty Nick Markakis only), and promptly walked him. Miller has walked three and hit a batter in 1 1/3 innings this season. And we all know about closer Joel Hanrahan's recent issues.

No new streak: A day after the vaunted sellout streak came to an end with a crowd just above 30,000, the Red Sox announced an attendance of 27,704. The game itself did not have a lot of pizzazz, with Chris Davis' mammoth shot off Aceves in the second the only real eye-popping moment. Group that with the empty seats and you have a rather staid evening in Fenway. Overheard in the press box during the sixth inning: "When's first pitch?"

That kinda night.

Till we meet again, man: Chris Tillman was a highly regarded prospect who came into his own with a strong showing for Baltimore in the second half last year. So there may be a day when we say, "Of course the Red Sox never homered off Tillman." Still, I can't be the only one who finds it rather amazing that the right-hander has thrown 30 1/3 innings against the Sox (more than he has thrown against all but one other team) and has yet to allow a homer.

Overall, Tillman -- who turns 25 on Monday -- has given up 42 home runs in 275 2/3 career innings, not a bad rate, but he has a lifetime ERA of 4.80. The Yankees have hit five homers off of him, the Blue Jays eight and the Rays nine.

Boston got six singles and two walks against Tillman to keep him busy enough. Still, no power on a night when just one big fly would've been the difference.

First time for everything: Without glancing at every box score through the years, it's safe to say that there have been very few 3-5-3 putouts in baseball history. In the modern era when more third basemen are lingering on the right side of the infield in defensive shifts, it is a possibility, but hard to imagine in the mind's eye until the Orioles hit into one to end the top of the fifth.

Chris Davis ripped a shot at first baseman Mike Napoli, who had it carom off of him sharply toward third baseman Will Middlebrooks playing on the right side. Middlebrooks easily made the scoop and assist to first and official scorer Mike Shalin ever-so-calmly called out over the press box microphone, "That putout goes 3-5-3."

Like they drew it up.

First time for everything (again): Alex Wilson made his major league debut for Boston by pitching the ninth. The former second-round pick, who was brought up when John Lackey hit the disabled list, faced an imposing trio in Manny Machado, Nick Markakis and Adam Jones. Wilson initially struggled, throwing six of his first seven pitches outside the zone. But after walking Machado he got Markakis to hit into a 6-4-3 double play and then whiffed Jones on three pitches, the last a rising heater that sent the game into the bottom of the ninth very much up in the air.

Up next: The Tampa Bay Rays come to town Friday for the first of four straight games, capped by the traditional 11:05 a.m. start on Patriots' Day.