BOSTON – The Red Sox bullpen, which seemed like it would be a source of strength in spring training and in the first few games of the season, faltered for the second consecutive game as the Sox lost to the Orioles 3-2 Thursday night at Fenway Park.
Alfredo Aceves made his first start of the season, taking the rotation spot of the injured John Lackey, and did everything that could be expected of him. He went five innings, allowing two runs on six hits with three walks and four strikeouts.
While the bullpen gave up just one run, it was the one that mattered.
With two outs in the seventh inning and the score tied, 2-2, Clayton Mortensen, who came on start the sixth, gave up a single to Manny Machado. The hit ended Mortensen’s outing.
He was replaced by left-hander Andrew Miller, who walked Nick Markakis, the only batter he faced.
“That’s the life of a situational left-hander,” manager John Farrell said of Miller's one-batter performance. “He’s pressed into action right away. Where we were in that lineup, [we] didn’t want to get in a situation where we had the bases loaded, potentially, with [Chris] Davis" -- one of the hottest hitters in the American League -- "coming up." That would have been the case had both Markakis and Adam Jones, the on-deck hitter, reached base.
Once Markakis got on, Miller was replaced by right-hander Koji Uehara, who had been perfect in his three previous appearances, to face the right-handed Jones. But Uehara gave up a first-pitch RBI double, giving Baltimore a 3-2 lead.
"[As] effective and consistent as Koji’s been, we made a move there," said Farrell. "And, unfortunately, it didn’t work out.”
Junichi Tazawa and Alex Wilson -- making his major-league debut -- shut down Baltimore the rest of the way, but the damage has been done.,
Thursday night's problems lifted the bullpen's ERA to 4.71; relievers have given up 15 runs in 28 2/3 innings.
Miller, in particular, has struggled, allowing three of the four first batters he has faced in an outing to reach base. Farrell, however, is not ready to push the panic button, especially since Miller is his only available left-handed reliever with Craig Breslow and Franklin Morales on the disabled list.
“We’re in the first 10 games of the season,” he said. “So I’m not going to rush to judgment. Certainly you’d like to see the effectiveness be there. But I’m sure in time it will be.
"[Miller's] a valuable guy for us right now. We’ve got to pick our spots with [only] one left-hander out there, even though Koji and [Tazawa] have been fairly successful against lefties. But that’s the situation he’s in right now.”