BALTIMORE -- How does elation lead that quickly to deflation?
That is what the Red Sox were asking themselves after an agonizing 5-4 loss to the Orioles on Wednesday night at Camden Yards.
For a few brief moments in the top of the eighth inning, it looked like the script was being written for what would have been one of Boston's most rewarding victories of the season.
"Tough loss," said manager Terry Francona. "It hurts. That was going to be an exciting win."
Down, 4-0, and having scored just one run in the first 16 innings of the series, the Red Sox came back with thunder in that eighth inning.
Adrian Gonzalez ripped an RBI single against Clay Rapada to slide the deficit to three, and then Kevin Youkilis followed by blasting an equalizing three-run homer to left on a 2-1 pitch by Koji Uehara.
"I was just looking for a fastball to drive," said Youkilis. "Got one, 2-0, just missed it. Then I was fortunate to get one up in the zone that I could hit out there to left-center field."
But Boston (10-13) didn't get much time to enjoy the spirited come back. For as soon as the Sox caught up, they fell back behind.
Ace setup man Daniel Bard came on for the bottom of the eighth, and bad things started happening immediately. Nick Markakis and Derrek Lee led off with singles.
A passed ball by Jason Varitek, who got crossed up with Bard on the pitch, allowed the runners to move to second and third.
"I just didn't see the fingers he put down," said Bard on a night his ERA rose to 3.97. "[I] saw them wrong. He put down for the right thing, looked for the right thing. I saw breaking ball and threw the wrong pitch. We crossed up our signs. It was my mistake."
Still, there was a temporary reprieve. When Vladimir Guerrero swung and missed at a pitch, it again got by Varitek. But the catcher swiftly recovered and fired home to the plate, where Bard tagged out Markakis.
That break didn't do much for the Red Sox, as Guerrero laced a mislocated pitch by Bard up the middle and through the drawn-in infield, giving the Orioles a lead they wouldn't relinquish.
"Yeah, I'm thinking strikeout, and then finding a way to get the next guy out," Bard said. "I made a terrible pitch on the next pitch to Guerrero. Bad location. I was trying to go up and in with a four-seamer. I pulled it. It was belt-high, middle."
That script was too familiar for Bard in this game.
"I was probably just moving a little bit too fast," Bard said. "Not taking my breath between pitches. I was yanking balls. All three hits were really bad missed locations. That's not really like me to miss location by two and three feet. I didn't do it besides those three pitches for the most part, but just really bad missed location. I was yanking the ball up over the middle of the plate."
With the game scoreless, the Red Sox tried to take the lead on Jed Lowrie's single to right with two outs in the fourth. However, David Ortiz was thrown out at the plate by Markakis.
"I would have sent him, too," said Francona.
Josh Beckett, who had been brilliant for three straight starts, mowed down 10 of the first 11 hitters he faced.
But the Orioles got a break in the fourth, when Lee blooped one in between Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury. The ball landed right in front of Ellsbury, who took an initial step back when Lee made contact and never recovered.
"Neither of us got to it," said Ellsbury. "The ball fell. The ball went up, I kind of broke back real quick and tried to come in and make a play. I was playing him in the left-center gap. Derrek Lee is a strong hitter. Just a split step back and it fell in between us."
Two batters later, Luke Scott hit a mammoth two-run homer to right to break the scoreless tie.
Beckett seemed annoyed, both by Scott flipping the bat before his trot, and then taking his time around the bases.
"I was just kind of enjoying the moment, as I usually do," Scott said. "Nothing more than what I normally do. I caught it, saw it and tossed my bat off the way and went into my trot. I was just enjoying the moment."
Beckett had little to say about it after the game.
"That's not my deal," Beckett said. "Those things have a way of working themselves out."
The righty also seemed impatient for home-plate umpire Fieldin Culbreth to get him another ball after the blast.
"Is this TMZ? I thought we were talking about a baseball game," Beckett said. "You want to know about bat-flips and talking to umpires. I think we should probably just stick to the game. I thought we did a good job battling back, and we came up one run short."
Making matters worse for Beckett, Adam Jones followed Scott's blast with one of his own, making it 3-0.
While the missed fly ball didn't do him any favors, Beckett wasn't in the market for excuses.
"I've got to limit the damage after that. I've got to make a better pitch on Scott. I threw a cutter right down the middle," said Beckett.
And the pitch to Jones?
"It was a sinker, probably right down the middle as well," Beckett said.
The end result was another loss for the Red Sox, who will try to avoid being swept by the Orioles on Thursday night.
"Yeah, it [stinks]," said Pedroia. "We want to win. We're upset. We want to win. We want to win every game. We hit the ball pretty good. Other than Youk's homer, we didn't really have anything to show for it."