Nick Markakis #21 of the Baltimore Orioles celebrates after scoring a run with teammate Adam Jones #10 during the first inning against the Boston Red Sox at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on September 27, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland.
In tonight's battle between lefties Zach Britton and Erik Bedard, neither was sharp enough to keep the other team from putting up crooked numbers. Bedard gave up fewer runs than Britton but didn't go as deep into the game. He gave up three runs in 3.1 innings, and every subsequent Red Sox pitcher gave up at least one run, but because of the huge lead the Sox built up, it wasn't enough.
The O's took an early lead thanks to a walk by Nick Markakis and an RB double from Vladimir Guerrero. It wasn't much, but Britton looked very good in the first and second innings. He faced just six batters, but in the third he gave up a two-run homer to Jacoby Ellsbury that put the O's in a 2-1 hole. Britton looked absolutely terrible in the fourth inning. After singles from David Ortiz and Adrian Gonzelaz, rookie Ryan Lavarnway (what is it with Red Sox and crazy last names?) hit his first major league home run. It was big one, giving the Red Sox a 5-1 lead. Britton didn't give up any more runs in the inning, but did surrender a double to Darnell McDonald and threw a wild pitch before ending the inning.
The Red Sox comfy four-run lead didn't even last an entire inning thanks to my Most Valuable Oriole, Matt Wieters. Vlad singled just ahead of Wieters' 22nd home run of the year. After Adam Jones struck out, a single from Chris Davis and a walk by Mark Reynolds put two on with one out, but the O's couldn't capitalize.
Britton started the fifth inning, but he probably shouldn't have. He did retire one batter, but after he walked two consecutive batters, his night was finished. Jason Berken took over and stranded both runners. Berken wasn't as lucky in the sixth inning as he caught the home run bug and surrendered one to Marco Scutaro.
Adam Jones answered with a home run of his own in the bottom of the sixth, but the home run derby wasn't over. Remember that crazily named Lavarnway? Yeah, he hit another one in the top of the eighth, making the score 8-4.
Down by four runs with just 1.5 innings left was enough to make it feel as though the game was as good as over. But the Orioles weren't having it. They added two more in the bottom of the eighth on a single from Davis and a triple from Nolan Reimold.
Jonathan Papelbon came in to pitch the 9th, and you know what? It was one of the most entertaining half innings I've seen in a long time. J.J. Hardy singled to start the inning, and after a ground out from Nick that moved Hardy to second, Vladdy singled to put runners on the corners. Nick's ground out, by the way, came at the end of an eleven-pitch at bat where Nick fouled off four pitches and worked the count full.
Matt Wieters hit a ground ball that anyone who wasn't the slowest runner in the history of ever would have been safe on. It was a dribbler in front of the mound and Lavarnway and Papelbon just stared at each other instead of playing the ball. Finally Larvarnway snapped out of it and threw him out at first, but Hardy scored the O's 7th run on the play.
With Angle, who had pinch run for Vlad, on second base as the tying run, Jones came up and had an absolutely tremendous at bat against Papelbon. He too worked a full count, and he fouled off six pitches. Sadly on the tenth pitch of the at bat, he grounded out to end the game.
Even so, what a game. I never have fun watching the second-to-last game of the season, yet here I am. Because the Rays won tonight, the wild card race remains a tie going into the last day of the season. The bad news is that Jon Lester is pitching for the Red Sox, and he has never lost to the Orioles. The good news is that he'll be pitching on three days rest, and because Alfredo Aceves pitched 3.2 innings tonight and Papelbon threw twenty-eight pitches, we won't be seeing them tomorrow.