BALTIMORE – The Boston Red Sox are going to have to rev up the offense if they want to regain their perch atop the AL East.
Boston managed only four hits Friday night in a 6-0 loss to the Baltimore Orioles. The defeat dropped the Red Sox into second place, a half-game behind Tampa Bay and only three games ahead of Baltimore.
It was the eighth shutout loss and third in nine games for Boston, which had been alone atop the division since May 27.
“We’ve got a lot of guys that are really great hitters,” losing pitcher John Lackey said. “They’ll come through and we’ll get it going.”
Jacoby Ellsbury had two hits for the Red Sox, who got only one runner past second base. Boston has lost 6 of 9 and scored only one run over its past two games.
“The opposition has attacked the strike zone early and gotten ahead of us,” Manager John Farrell said.
Actually, Orioles starter Chris Tillman (13-3) issued two walks in the first inning but settled down and allowed only two hits over seven innings. After working out of a bases-loaded jam in the first, Tillman was in control against the flailing Red Sox, finishing with a career-high tying eight strikeouts.
“We had the makings of a good inning in the first,” Farrell said. “We couldn’t push one across, and then Tillman settled in and threw a lot of strikes. Good curveball, change-up when he needed to, but his fastball got some swings and misses, particularly to our right-handers. And when we did square a ball up, seemingly it was at someone.”
Adam Jones homered twice for the Orioles, and Manny Machado and J.J. Hardy also connected.
Jones hit a two-run homer in the first and a solo shot in the fifth to help Baltimore bounce back from three successive losses in Kansas City. It was the third multihomer game of his career.
Baltimore tied a season high with four long balls and increased its major-league leading total to 141.
“That’s our style of play,” Jones said. “Tonight it worked.”
Three of the homers came against Lackey (7-8), who yielded a season-high tying five runs in 61/3 innings. Lackey came in with a 12-4 lifetime record against the Orioles and had allowed two runs or fewer in 6 of 7 starts since June 15.
“The ballpark got me a little bit a couple times and their guy pitched pretty good,” Lackey said. “I didn’t pitch good enough tonight.”
Baltimore got all the runs it needed in the first inning when Nick Markakis singled and Jones hit an opposite-field drive to right that barely cleared the 25-foot scoreboard.
Nate McLouth led off the third with a triple off the glove of Ellsbury in center, and Machado followed with a single for a 3-0 lead.
Baltimore missed a chance to add a run when Hardy was thrown out at the plate trying to score on a single by Brian Roberts. Right fielder Shane Victorino got his seventh assist, high among Boston outfielders.
But Jones hit another opposite-field homer in the fifth, giving him 22 for the season. Machado chased Lackey with a drive to left field in the seventh, and Hardy connected off Jose De La Torre in the eighth.
When the game ended, Boston’s grip on first place was gone.
“It’s not the end of the world,” Victorino said. “It’s part of the game.”
NOTES: Baltimore has homered in 11 straight games against Boston. Daniel Nava has reached base in a career-high 21 straight games.