BOSTON -- Seeking a sweep, and with a rare chance to make up ground in the American League East, the Orioles were instead denied by Red Sox starter Felix Doubront, who struck out a career-high 11 over seven innings, paving the way for Baltimore's 2-1 loss.
The defeat snapped a season-high six-game win streak for the Orioles, keeping them a game behind the division-leading Yankees, who lost to the A's. But Baltimore's second loss in its last 11 games at Fenway Park wasn't short on theatrics for a club known for late comebacks and extra-innings wins.
With the Orioles down to their final two outs, Mark Reynolds singled and Saturday night's hero, Jim Thome, delivered a ground-rule double to put the potential tying run 90 feet away off Red Sox closer Andrew Bailey. Bailey intentionally walked Chris Davis to load the bases and get to rookie Manny Machado, who grounded into a force play that cut down Reynolds at home. Pinch-hitter Ryan Flaherty was caught looking at a third strike, ending the game and capping a 6-3, three-city road trip.
"It [stinks]," center fielder Adam Jones said of the loss. "We needed this one. Obviously, going down to this last stretch, every game is seen as a must-win. We put ourselves in position. We just didn't come through with the hit, but we put ourselves in position. At the end of the day, that's all you can ask for."
With the score tied at 1 in the eighth, righty Luis Ayala -- on for his second inning -- served up a pair of doubles, with Cody Ross' two-bagger scoring Dustin Pedroia to put Boston ahead. After lefty Brian Matusz retired Mauro Gomez, top prospect Dylan Bundy made his professional debut and retired both batters he faced to keep the game close.
"I was nervous at first," said the 19-year-old Bundy, who retired Ryan Lavarnway and Danny Valencia on a pair of flyouts. "When I threw that first pitch, I was hoping it would be a strike. But after that first pitch, I felt a whole lot better about the whole thing."
The Orioles should also feel pretty good about a road trip that included series wins in Oakland and Boston and a sweep in Seattle. They also have the lead for one of two AL Wild Card spots, although their focus remains on winning the division.
"Coming to Boston, taking two of three, I don't care what kind of team we're playing or how we're playing, it's always big," Reynolds said. "And [if] we keep winning series, [we'll] see where we're at in about a week or two."
In the seventh, with the score tied at 1, lefty Troy Patton -- making his first appearance since Aug. 12 -- induced a pair of groundouts and exited after leadoff man Scott Podsednik's single in favor of Ayala. Ayala retired Pedro Ciriaco on a diving stop from Machado, who got to his feet and made a great throw to Reynolds.
Machado drove in the O's lone run, scoring Lew Ford -- who had the team's first hit -- in the fifth inning. Machado's single was the third consecutive hit off Doubront to open the inning, but the O's couldn't get anything else going.
"At this point it's nice to be able to play meaningful games," said Red Sox outfielder Cody Ross, who robbed Jones of a homer with a fantastic catch in the first inning. "It's something to play for. Obviously, we want to be on their side of the ball and be playing for a spot, but we're not. So this is what we're left to do, and that's try to win games, and I guess try to make other teams unhappy as well."
Boston's lone run off starter Chris Tillman came in the fourth, when a much-improved Orioles defense -- which saw a 114-inning errorless streak end on Saturday -- committed another miscue.
Robert Andino, playing for the first time since taking a pitch off his helmet on Friday, covered second base and after fielding shortstop J.J. Hardy's throw, turned and threw wide to an outstretched Reynolds. Reynolds couldn't come up with the errant toss, allowing Valencia to reach first and Ross to score.
"He gave us a really good chance," manager Buck Showalter said of Tillman. "If we had done a couple of things defensively, he would have probably pitched seven or eight [innings]. Tilly threw the ball well, and [we] had some good innings out of the bullpen. This time of the year, probably more so than any ballpark, with the shadows, there's a reason why the runs are scored late in the ballgame, once the shadow catches up with the pitcher, especially a left-hander [like Doubront]. It's a guessing game trying to see the ball."
The 24-year-old Tillman threw six innings, allowing the one run on six hits and a walk. He also had four strikeouts in the quality start.
"We had a solid road trip," Tillman said of a club that now heads home for Monday's doubleheader against Toronto. "It's unfortunate the way the ball bounced there at the end. We made a good push."
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. 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.