The Orioles played a roller coaster of a game tonight, starting with six shutout innings by Jeremy Guthrie and home runs by Luke Scott and Adam Jones, followed by a bullpen meltdown featuring the normally reliable Koji Uehara, then a late inning comeback and another perfect save by closer Kevin Gregg. The win locks up the series for the Orioles and gives them a chance for the sweep tomorrow night against Jon Lester.
Jeremy Guthrie wasn't at his finest tonight, as he'd be the first to tell you. In his post game press conference, Guthrie expressed regret that he couldn't pitch more innings, saying that if he could have pitched the seventh or eighth it could have been an entirely different game. His troubles with the pitch count tonight, he said, were a result of him not being able to locate his changeup. That said, the results from Guthrie were as good as they could have been. He gave up no runs, seven hits, and one walk in his six innings, striking out six. But after six he had thrown 111 pitches and was done for the night.
Guthrie got himself into trouble immediately, allowing a leadoff single to Jacoby Ellsbury and a one-out double to Adrian Gonzalez. That put runners on second and third with only one out, but Guts came back to strike out Kevin Youkilis and get David Ortiz to pop up (Andino made a nice play on that one, ranging out and catching the ball over his head).
Guts cruised through the second and third innings relatively easily (he struck out the side in the third), but needed his defense to bail him out in the fourth. With two outs, Ortiz singled up the middle and J.D. Drew walked. Jed Lowrie then singled to right and that's when David Ortiz made the fatal mistake of running on Nick Markakis. Nick gunned him down at the plate with Matt Wieters making another good tag. After the game, when asked about the play, Buck Showalter said that Matt is the finest tagger he's ever seen.
Guthrie allowed runners in both the fifth and sixth innings, but got out of it and left the game with a four run lead. Unfortunately the O's bullpen wouldn't hold it for him and he'd again lose out on the chance to get the win.
While last night the O's relied on sacrifice flies to get the job done, tonight they were more interested in hitting bombs. After three relatively easy innings, Josh Beckett had some trouble in the fourth. With one out, Derrek Lee hit a pop up that will show in the boxscore as a double, but was really a mental gaffe on the part of the Red Sox. It fell between Ellsbury, Drew, and Dustin Pedroia. Pedroia seemed to have a bead on the ball but ducked out when he heard Ellsbury coming towards him. That turned out to be a mistake (although it looked like Ellsbury's ball). Lee hustled into second base, and after Vlad popped out, Luke Scott made the Red Sox pay for their mistake, just CRUSHING a ball onto Eutaw Street to give the Orioles a 2-0 lead. It was Luke's fifth career Eutaw Street HR, tying Rafael Palmeiro for the most ever by one player. Rattled, Beckett allowed Adam Jones to take a fastball into the left field stands. It wasn't nearly as far as Luke's, but it was far enough.
An interesting thing happened after those home runs were hit. Beckett appeared to be yelling into the O's dugout as the inning ended, then was jawing some more at the umpire when he next took the mound. One could suspect that Beckett wasn't happy that Luke took a moment at home plate to admire his moon shot, but my advice to Josh Beckett is to sack up. You don't want guys watching their home runs? Don't throw pitches that allow them to hit 426-foot home runs.
The Orioles added another run in the fifth inning on a sacrifice fly by Brian Roberts, making the score 4-0. It would stay there until the top of the 8th when the O's bullpen totally ruined Jeremy Guthrie's night.
After pitching a perfect seventh inning, Jeremy Accardo allowed the first two batters to reach in the eighth. With lefty Adrian Gonzalez coming up, Showalter turned to Clay Rapada. It didn't exactly work out as the bullpen imp gave up an RBI single to the Sox first baseman. Rapada was replaced with Koji Uehara, who came in to face Youkilis. Thank goodness! Uehara is awesome, he never lets us down! Oh...not this time. Instead of harmlessly striking out, Youkilis hit a three-run homer to left. No, Koji! How did that happen? That tied the game at four and while I wasn't in the gamethread tonight I can only imagine that the F words were flying in there. Koji got out of the inning, but the damage was done.
After flailing about against knuckleballer Tim Wakefield in the seventh inning, the Orioles jumped right on his replacement, flame thrower Daniel Bard. Markakis and Lee got things started with back-to-back singles, then moved up on a passed ball. Bard then threw a wild pitch and Markakis tried to score. He joined the ranks of Robert Andino and Felix Pie as Orioles who get thrown out at home because they didn't get around the blocked plate, and the score remained tied. Vladimir Guerrero, who was at the plate, picked him up immediately with a single up the middle to score Derrek Lee. That put the Orioles back on top with a one-run lead going into the ninth.
Wait, a one-run lead going in the ninth? But that means....no, not again, not Kevin Gregg! But wait, what's this? Another perfect inning for Gregg? That actually looked rather effortless? I just...I don't....ok then! Good job, Gregg. Keep it up.