Four Real? Red Sox vs Orioles 8-29-13

Jon Lester took the loss Thursday night against the Orioles to fall
to 12-8 and a 3.99 ERA on the year (Gail Oskin/Getty Images)

Jan-Christian Sorensen Contributing Writer

Good news first: The Red Sox won their third-straight series Thursday night at Fenway.

Bad news next: The Red Sox still dropped a 3-2 decision to the Baltimore Orioles after taking the first two games.

Jon Lester suffered the loss, surrendering three runs — all earned — on five hits over six innings while striking out four and walking three to fall to 12-8, while Matt Thornton, Brandon Workman and Craig Breslow came on to work three innings of scoreless relief that were all for naught.

Chris Tillman pitched a stellar seven innings, striking out eight and walking none while giving up a pair of runs on six hits to improve to 15-4 on the year, while Tommy Hunter and Brian Matusz were credited with holds and Jim Johnson came on in the ninth to lock down his 41st save. With the victory, Tillman now boasts a record of 24-7 since the 2012 All-Star Break.

The Red Sox out-hit the O’s 8-7, but couldn’t come up with the timely hits that the team and its fan base have begun to take for granted this season. Daniel Nava — who reached a career high in doubles with his 22nd of the year in the sixth — went 3 for 4 at the dish, Shane Victorino and Stephen Drew drove in Boston’s two runs and Jacoby Ellsbury went 2 for 4 at the plate and stole his 50th base of the season in a losing cause.

On a worrisome note, David Ortiz went 0 for 4 on the night, slipping to 0 for his last 22, while Tillman also held Will Middlebrooks, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Jonny Gomes and Dustin Pedroia hitless.

With the win, Baltimore takes a 7-6 advantage in the season series, with six games left to play — including a three-game set at the Fens that will end the regular season Sept. 27-29.

Here are the four at-bats that changed the game:

1) Drew Comes Through — after Daniel Nava hit a double to start off the second, Stephen Drew lined a single to right to cash him in for an early 1-0 Red Sox lead.

2) Mucho Machado: In the third, after Danny Valencia doubled to left and was erased at third on a fielder’s choice in Brian Roberts’ next at-bat, Nate McLouth walked to put two on. The next batter, Manny Machado, drove in both runners with his league-leading 45th double of the year to lift the Birds to a 2-1 lead.

3) Crash Davis: In the fifth with two men down, Adam Jones drew a walk and Chris Davis sent him home with a double to left to put Baltimore up 3-1. Davis bucked a career trend with the hit — he came into the game only hitting .105 lifetime versus Lester.

4) Shane In Vain: In the home half of the sixth, Shane Victorino — who’s been on a torrid tear since returning to Fenway — hit a solo shot to left for his 12th homer of the year and his seventh in the month of August to bring the Sox within a run, but that would be all Boston could muster.

With the loss, the American League East Division-leading Red Sox slip to to 79-56 but still maintain a 2.5-game pad over the 75-57 Tampa Bay Rays, who were shut out 2-0 by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim earlier in the day in St. Petersburg.

Tomorrow night, the Red Sox welcome the 56-76 Chicago White Sox to town for the start of a three-game series with Ryan Dempster (6-9, 4.77 ERA) slated to make his first start since being suspended five games for plunking Alex Rodriguez at Yankee Stadium Aug. 18. He will face Hector Santiago, who is 4-7 with a 3.25 ERA for the White Sox in 2013.

Twitter: @jan_doh