Chen's late trouble costly as O's fall in Boston

Chen's late trouble costly as O's fall in Boston

BOSTON -- This wasn't the way the Orioles wanted to start a six-game road trip, particularly on the heels of a pair of losses at home to the Minnesota Twins. But here they are after Monday's 3-1 loss to Boston, under .500 for the first time since the end of the 2011 season.

"We might spend [Tuesday's off-day] crying as a team, holding each other's hands, just walking through the Prudential Center, just crying," center fielder Adam Jones, who scored the lone run on a solo homer, joked of the team's reaction to having a losing record.

"It's seven games into the season. It's not like we just got blown out. We got beat. One-run games, two-run games. It can go here. It can go there. We're playing good baseball. We've got 155 more to go."

The Orioles (3-4), who lost their fourth game in the last 13 against Boston, came in having scored 37 runs, with the Red Sox fresh off a 13-0 rout of Toronto. But offense was at a premium Monday afternoon, and the O's struck out 11 times in some tough shadows at Fenway Park, leaving no margin for error from starter Wei-Yin Chen, who served up a decisive seventh-inning three-run homer.

"Compared with last outing, I feel like I'm getting better and better," Chen, who was superb for most of the afternoon but still saw his winless streak climb to nine, said through interpreter Tim Lin. "But the baseball god is not with me today."

It hasn't been with the Orioles -- kings of close-game wins last season -- much lately either. Baltimore has a three-game losing streak it will take into Wednesday's game, while the Red Sox (5-2) -- who have won nine consecutive home openers -- are off to the club's best start since going 6-1 in 2006.

"We just never put [Red Sox starter Clay] Buchholz on his heels much," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said of his club, which allowed Buchholz to toss seven scoreless innings. "We didn't really put a lot of pressure on him, and he handled it well. He pitched real well. He and Chen matched up and locked up in a good one. You knew it was going to be a one-pitch fine margin. [Chen] gives up a ball that trickles through the middle of the diamond and a fly ball [out] in most places that falls for a double, and he makes a mistake."

That mistake was actually a pretty good pitch, in a location Chen said he wanted, that Daniel Nava drove over the Green Monster for a three-run shot.

"Obviously I was not trying to hit a home run," said Nava, who has gone yard in back-to-back games for Boston. "It just worked out like that. To contribute and get us the lead in a tight game after the way Buch pitched, it's something that anyone who stepped into the box in that situation was looking to do."

Chen, who took the mound in the seventh having allowed just three hits, surrendered a leadoff single to Dustin Pedroia, and Mike Napoli followed with a double off the center-field wall to put Boston in a threatening spot. After striking out Will Middlebrooks and causing some Orioles bullpen activity, Nava drove Chen's 1-1 fastball to snap the scoreless tie and bring on right-hander Tommy Hunter.

"I don't think that was a mistake to Nava," Chen said. "It was a mistake to Napoli on a 3-2 curveball."

Either way, it spelled the end of Chen's day, tagging him with a loss in a 107-pitch effort that just fell short of Buchholz. Boston's best starter by the end of the 2012 season, the right-hander didn't have a clean inning until the sixth but managed to keep Baltimore's bats in fits when it mattered.

The Orioles put the leadoff man on three times in the first four frames, and in the third, they got a pair of two-out singles from Manny Machado and Nick Markakis. But Buchholz struck out cleanup hitter Jones on a curveball, one of eight strikeouts to help offset the Orioles' three hits and four walks.

"He uses all of his pitches and he knows how to use both sides of the plate," catcher Matt Wieters said of Buchholz. "He's a guy that you're not going to be able to guess with, because he can throw any ball in any count and he's a guy who knows how to pitch. And he's got good stuff on top of that."

The O's put another leadoff man on with Wieters' seventh-inning walk, and he advanced to second on Ryan Flaherty's groundout to mark just the second time the team had a runner in scoring position. But No. 9 batter Steve Pearce, still looking for his first hit this season along with Flaherty, struck out to keep it scoreless.

Chen kept pace with Buchholz for most of his outing, retiring nine of the first 10 batters he faced and not allowing a hit until Shane Victorino's single to start the fourth inning. Wieters erased that by throwing out his fourth baserunner in five tries this season and Chen lasted 6 1/3 innings, exiting after Nava's homer.

The Orioles, who have played rotating day and night games as part of three Opening Day celebrations in three different cities, will use Tuesday's off-day to regroup and get ready for another pair of games in Boston and then a weekend set in New York.

"I think this off-day is very much needed," Wieters said. "The opening week can be very difficult with day game, night game, day game, things like that, so it's nice to get a day off and get back in that normal schedule like it will be for the rest of the year."

Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.