Abruptly, night yielded to hard wall. Crisp limped to the plate in the bottom of the inning, shaken after a fruitless bid to prevent a Miguel Tejada double. It was a painful evening for Boston, which began without late scratch Tim Wakefield and ended on the losing end of a 9-8 marathon.
"We're lucky it's September right now," left fielder Eric Hinske said. "Because the rosters are expanding [to 40] and we can get some more players."
Throughout the game, the Red Sox absorbed a vicious barrage of errant pitches, foul tips and immobile outfield barricades. J.D. Drew left the game after fouling a second-inning offering from Orioles starter Radhames Liz off his right foot. Kevin Youkilis took a third-inning fastball to the back and an eighth-inning fastball to the knee, which was only appropriate after he'd escaped apparent danger -- and newly suspended Yankees reliever Joba Chamberlain -- in New York on Thursday.
Then, a sellout Fenway Park crowd of 36,810 shuddered when Red Sox slugger David Ortiz caught a fifth-inning Kurt Birkins pitch squarely in the rib cage. It was only a curveball, and so Ortiz marched to first, the crowd content to know that it hadn't lost its second slugger in a week (Manny Ramirez remained on the shelf with an oblique strain).
Meanwhile, scheduled starter Tim Wakefield, tied for the league lead in wins, rested on the bench with a sore back.
"Wakefield, to start off, was a surprise," Hinske said. "J.D. leaves the game. Coco runs into the wall. Youkilis keeps getting hit every time he's up there. I don't know; it's just a weird time for us right now. We've just got to battle through it."
It unraveled early for Boston starter Julian Tavarez during a long fourth inning, which began with six straight Orioles reaching base. Three through six hitters Nick Markakis, Tejada, Kevin Millar and Aubrey Huff scored the first four Baltimore runs during the hit parade, which lurched forward with Tejada's 17th home run, a line drive into the Green Monster seats. No other hitter went for extra bases during the outburst.
"I thought [Tavarez] did fine," said Dustin Pedroia. "He had a lot of ground balls that just snuck through."
Tavarez, who has long said he could start at a moment's notice, very nearly did so on Friday. He learned during the afternoon that he would be taking the place of the injured Wakefield.
"Pitchers, they have their own preparation," Mike Lowell said. "And I'm sure Tavarez would've preferred knowing. But you know, that's what makes him a valuable commodity on our team. He's able to do it. He was sharp for a couple of innings, then he wasn't as sharp as he probably would've hoped to be."
The Red Sox got started with Ortiz's 26th home run in the first inning, a long, sailing shot into the home bullpen in right-center field.
Despite rallying for three in the seventh and two in the ninth during a stirring comeback that never was -- late replacement Jason Varitek grounded into a double play with the tying and winning runs on base in the ninth -- the Red Sox couldn't overcome nine Orioles runs, 13 hits and a good bit of bad luck.
"You don't want to lose players during a game," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "It doesn't help your chances. But our goal today was to win, regardless of what happened. We came close."
Alex McPhillips is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.