A sellout crowd came into Fenway Park in Boston this afternoon to see the circus and a baseball game broke out. There were dizzying displays of incompetence in center and left field by both teams; the only thing missing was Yakety Sax. It may have been the bright sun in an afternoon game, or perhaps the baseball gods sought capricious entertainment. Were you not entertained? When the dust settled, the spoilers sat on top, with the Orioles taking a 6-5 victory over the Red Sox.
The Orioles struck first off Kyle Weiland in the top of the third inning, thanks in part to Darnell McDonald, the Boston left fielder, misplaying a series of balls that culminated with Matt Angle doubling off the Green Monster to score Nolan Reimold (reached on single to left, catchable) and Josh Bell (reached on two-base error) and stake the O's out to a 2-0 lead. McDonald got a little redemption for himself by homering in the bottom half of the frame. At least it was a solo home run, making the score 2-1.
After seeing McDonald's performance in the third inning, the O's came out in the 4th hitting the ball in his direction. Unfortunately for McDonald, he lost these balls over the Green Monster. With Chris Davis on first, Robert Andino launched one up into the third row of Monster seats. Reimold, who had a little adventure in left of his own, though no runs resulted, followed up with a Monster shot of his own. The score at this point was 5-1 in favor of the Orioles.
Never ones to miss out when other teams are getting their fill of defensive miscues, the Orioles steadily allowed the Red Sox back in the game with some misadventures of their own. The prime O's culprit was Matt Angle in center field, who played two outs into run-scoring triples by Jarrod Saltalamacchia in the 4th and Dustin Pedroia in the 5th. In between these innings, J.J. Hardy added a Monster home run as well. At the close of this flurry of scoring, the O's were still up by a 6-4 margin.
As it turned out, the O's would score no more. Weiland was replaced by Felix Doubront, who was replaced by Alfredo Aceves, and these two relievers combined to retire seven straight Orioles hitters. All the while, O's fans chewed their nails and prayed for insurance runs that would never arrive.
The infield got in on the unfortunate defense in the 7th. This was a more familiar kind of thing for the O's, just a simple lack of reflexes and range by corner infielders. McDonald led off the 7th with a single, ending Guthrie's day. The Invisible Man himself, Troy Patton, came on and induced Jacoby Ellsbury to ground into a double play, the third of the game for the O's defense. It was a lucky afternoon for the MD Lottery Double Play contestant, Denise Winston of Baltimore. But then Marco Scutaro doubled down the left field line, just out of the reach of a diving Bell, and the next batter, Adrian Gonzalez, grounded a ball underneath the glove of Davis at first base. The score was 6-5 Orioles.
They were not without their chances for insurance runs in the 8th and 9th innings. Vladimir Guerrero opened up with a single in the 8th and Matt Wieters followed with a ground rule double. That left second and third with none out, but Davis popped out to shallow right, then Andino and Reimold struck out. The 9th saw more hopes for an add-on run or two. Angle walked with one out and Hardy singled, but then Nick Markakis hit a lazy fly ball to center and Guerrero struck out.
As it turned out, the insurance runs were not necessary, with the O's bullpen keeping the Sox locked down in the 8th between Clay Rapada and Pedro Strop. And also because Kevin Gregg did not pitch the 9th. Jim Johnson came on for the save. He did not try to make Gregg feel better by walking the leadoff batter. If you blinked, you missed his 9th inning. He needed only seven pitches to record the final three outs of the game, all of which were ground balls that never looked even a little threatening. The Sox had no chance against JJ today. Game over, O's win. The meaningless (but still futile-appearing) milestone of 100 losses cannot be reached as the victory was the 63rd of the year for the Birds.
With this afternoon's victory, the O's kept up with the spoiler role. The loss means the Red Sox are only 1.5 games ahead of Tampa Bay. But Tampa's off tonight, so the Sox have a chance to get that half-game right back if they win tonight. The night half of the day/night doubleheader has the standard start time of 7:05pm Eastern. John Lackey's $82.5 million contract starts for the Sox and the decaying dreams of an MLB career for Brian Matusz will start for the Orioles.