BALTIMORE -- You've got it wrong, Jon Lester told a visitor Thursday night. Alex Wilson, who had just been recalled from Pawtucket, did not earn wall-to-wall respect in the Red Sox clubhouse by pitching deep into the night Thursday when the Sox were out of other options, finally succumbing 5-4 to the Baltimore Orioles on a two-out bloop single in the 13th inning.
"He earned that respect from his first day in camp," Lester said. "A great kid, works hard, does and says all the right things. Guys are here for a reason, and obviously him going out there and doing that, picking us up, was huge. But he already had our respect.
"I think he has to step back and realize, 'Yeah, we lost the game, it's a tough one, but I did a helluva job tonight.'"
Wilson almost didn't get here Thursday. He lives five minutes from the Providence airport, so he got up at 6, thinking he had plenty of time to make his 7 a.m. flight. Everything was going as planned until he learned his flight had been grounded by bad weather in Baltimore. He sat in the airport for four hours -- if his flight hadn't finally left at 11, the fallback plan was a train leaving at noon.
"It would have gotten me here just shy of game time," he said, "but I would have been here. That's what counts, right?"
His presence was an absolute necessity after the Red Sox, for the second time in four nights, opened a series against an AL East rival by playing extra innings. They went 14 innings Monday night before beating the Rays, 9-8, on Daniel Nava's base hit, and John Farrell had already gone through five pitchers Thursday before he called on Wilson to start the 11th.
"I was ready," Wilson said. "I knew that when I got in it would be for an extended time."
There were two outs and nobody on in the 13th when Markakis came to the plate again. Wilson thought he might have had Markakis struck out on a 1-and-2 fastball, but plate umpire Jim Joyce thought otherwise, believing the pitch to have missed outside.
"You just bend your back and say, 'Here we go again,'" Wilson said.
Markakis worked the count full. Wilson said he knew as soon as he released the payoff pitch that he'd misfired. "It was over the plate, but low," he said.
Cleanup hitter Adam Jones lined a single to right, bringing up Chris Davis, who leads the majors with 21 home runs. But this time when Davis swung, the ball carried just over the Sox infield, but not deep enough for left fielder Gomes to catch. Markakis easily scored the winning run.
Wilson walked slowly off the mound, head down.
"Guys were waiting in the dugout for him to come off the field," Lester said. "Obviously he doesn't want high fives for losing, but we wanted to make sure we see him right now and say, 'Hey, buddy, you did a helluva job. You can't look at the negative of one hit.'
"That's him," Lester said. "You see him, from his first bullpen to game situations, the guy's fearless. He goes right after guys."
A tough loss for the Sox, who had only one baserunner after the seventh: Ellsbury, who reached on catcher's interference in the 10th. The Baltimore bullpen, which has had its share of problems this season, got the best of a Boston bullpen that had allowed just two hits after the sixth inning until the winning rally.
The Orioles did not walk a single batter Thursday night. That had happened only four times previously to the Sox in games in which they'd gotten at least 45 at-bats. The last time it happened in extra innings was in 1992.
Chances are, come Friday morning, Wilson will be on another plane, this one headed back to Pawtucket. Farrell said he needed another fresh arm for the weekend.
This has happened once before to Wilson, who was called up in April and made it to the end of May before he was sent down, a demotion not related to performance, but roster manipulation.
"It's obviously difficult," he said. "I feel like I was doing my job, but you have to understand the system. I know how it works. There are only few and far between who come and stick and stay forever. It's one of those unfortunate events where you've got to prove yourself over and over again, but it's something I've had to do my entire life, and I don't feel like that's going to change anytime soon."
Wilson, who was born in Saudi Arabia, grew up in West Virginia and was drafted in the second round in 2009 as a starter out of Texas A&M, saw his career veer in a different direction in 2012, when the Sox converted him to reliever.
Something also took place that he wasn't expecting. He reinvented himself as a pitcher, transforming from the power arm he'd always been to a sinkerballer.
"I was always a power, four-seamer guy," he said. "Now I'm getting some run, some sink. I'm able to pitch totally different than I have in the past. It's been a learning experience for me each day, just because it's not what I've done my whole career."
This spring he came to camp determined to find a better way to pitch to left-handed hitters, and the results have been impressive. Lefties came into Wednesday's game batting just .147 (5-for-34) against him.
"I made a few minor adjustments, and my ball's really taken off sinking these days," he said. "I have a pretty heavy ball with late life. Hopefully it will keep sinking, running and stay heavy for me."
Wilson is 26. He is still one year away from becoming a six-year minor league free agent, which would allow him more freedom to determine his own future than he has now, when he sits, five minutes from the airport, waiting for the next summons from the Red Sox.
Before he left the clubhouse, Lester went over and placed an arm around Wilson's shoulder. Clayton Mortensen offered a fist bump.
"It's always nice," Wilson said, "when a bunch of veteran guys go out of their way to say hello, make you welcome. Jonny's been great, he's taken me under his wing pretty much, led me in the right direction. Same with [Clay] Buchholz and [John] Lackey. [Joel] Hanrahan, when he was here, was huge, just sitting out in the bullpen with him. And watching Bailey and Uehara go about their business was fun."
Thursday night, all eyes were watching Alex Wilson. He lost, but he didn't falter.
"I got beat on an unfortunate event," he said. "[Davis] did his job. That's baseball."