For Sox manager Bobby Valentine, Morales' outing "wasn't a terrible appearance, that's for sure," and what's happened to Boston the last three games is not about momentum that failed to carry over, but good pitching for the other guys.
"I don't believe in that nonsense," Valentine said of momentum. "There's been pretty good pitchers who have pitched against us, and they've held us down a little. We're playing a good game. We're playing the same baseball. It's not like we're playing any different baseball. We're not getting those big hits because we're not getting any pitches to do it with."
To Cody Ross, the loss hinged on an eighth-inning play. O's shortstop J.J. Hardy dove to his left and robbed Ross of a line drive up the middle, with David Ortiz on first base and no outs. Hardy then doubled off Ortiz with a throw from his knees.
"For me, that's the game," Ross said. "David goes first to third right there, and I don't know if it possibly could've been a double if it's in the gap. J.J. made a great play and got out of a jam right there. Tough loss."
The Red Sox (11-14) are in last place and seven games out in the American League East, while the Orioles (17-9) have so far helped upend a division that has the Yankees and Sox as the Nos. 4 and 5 teams.
Boston's bullpen was highly flammable at the season's outset, but entering Friday, only one team had a lower bullpen ERA since April 23, and that was Baltimore. Sox relievers had allowed just two runs in 28 innings, and entering the day, they had an 11-inning scoreless streak of their own.
Orioles closer Jim Johnson saved it for winning pitcher Troy Patton, who went two innings.
"It's unbelievable," said Reynolds, who went 2-for-4 with a home run and two RBIs. "These guys come in every night and they throw up scoreless inning after scoreless inning. We definitely wouldn't be where we are right now without those guys coming in and throwing strikes and keeping us in games."
Boston used all of its seven relievers besides Clay Mortensen. Closer Alfredo Aceves was dominant in 2 2/3 innings, striking out six batters over the 10th and the 11th. He got two more outs in the 12th before Morales was brought in. Matt Albers, who's repeating 2011 with a strong beginning to the year, threw a scoreless eighth and ninth.
"We lost," Aceves said. "We need to win. They're in first place and we couldn't hold it."
"[Aceves] came in with a lot of rest and was a man on a mission," Valentine said. "He and Matt Albers were lights out. They were terrific. They did everything they possibly could do."
Boston's last lead, 4-3, was forged in the fifth on Dustin Pedroia's line-drive single back up the middle off O's rookie starter Wei-Yin Chen, who went five innings and gave up all four Sox runs, three earned. Will Middlebrooks, in the No. 2 hole, scored on the Pedroia hit after doubling. That's two runs in as many big league games for the top prospect.
The Orioles tied the game against Vicente Padilla in the seventh, when Hardy grounded into a double play with the bases loaded to knot it at 4.
Jon Lester (1-2, 4.62 ERA), who threw 99 pitches and gave up three runs in six innings, let the Orioles tie the game in the third and fourth innings, after Boston had held leads of 1-0 and 3-1.
"Except for the home run in the third [to Reynolds], I felt like the early innings were pretty good," Lester said. "The fourth got away from me a little bit."
Lester and home-plate umpire Jim Reynolds did not see eye to eye on a few early pitches, which Lester reviewed after the game.
"I think everything I throw is a strike. That's my mentality," he said. "But going back and looking at it, they were balls. Jim did a good job."
The no-decision for Lester keeps alive the longest active win streak to start a pitcher's career against one team. He's 14-0 against the O's in 19 starts.