The Orioles continued their outstanding tear through their AL East rivals, handing the Red Sox an 8-2 beatdown to clinch their fourth straight series win. The O's offense did almost all its damage in a seven-run, third-inning explosion that featured moon shots from Adam Jones and Mark Reynolds, and Jason Hammel and the Birds' bullpen took it the rest of the way.
Two Rockies teammates from last year, Jason Hammel and Aaron Cook, squared off hoping to eat up innings and give their respective bullpens a rest after Friday night's 13-inning marathon. Cook, making his Red Sox debut, induced three grounders to short in an easy first inning, but his outing took a turn for the worse in the second. With Chris Davis on third and two down, catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia let a pitch slip behind him. Davis stormed for the plate as Cook rushed to field Salty's throw. As Davis slid home safely, he accidentally spiked Cook across the knee.
The Sox trainers came out to check on Cook, who had a gash on his leg so ugly that it had basically loosened a big flap of skin. It looked like his leg had grown a mouth. Cook retreated to the dugout, and the Red Sox appeared to be in huge trouble with their starter knocked out after just 1 ⅔ innings. But wait! The trainers fixed up Cook in the clubhouse-- rubbed some dirt on it or whatever they do-- and within a few minutes he was back on the mound, bravely gutting it out. (Poor Clayton Mortensen, who had jauntily jogged in from the bullpen thinking he was about to pitch, had to morosely make the long trek back from whence he came.)
As it turned out, Cook's valiant effort to stay in the game lasted for just one extra inning...and it wasn't a good one. The O's absolutely took him to the woodshed in the third. An Endy Chavez bunt single and J.J. Hardy walk put two on with one down, though Chavez gifted the Red Sox an out by getting caught stealing third. Still, the O's racked up an incredible SIX consecutive two-out hits, starting with Nick Markakis's single up the middle that plated Hardy.
Adam Jones then crushed one of the longest homeruns you'll see in a while, a jaw-dropping blast that cleared the Green Monster and then sailed right out of the stadium. Holy smokes! I'd say he got all of that one. The ball landed in the parking lot behind Fenway, where it may have dented somebody's car. (I bet it was Clayton Mortensen's. Poor guy can't catch a break.)
The O's already led 4-0, and they followed in quick succession with a double, a single, and a Wilson Betemit RBI knock that ended Cook's day. His goose, if you will, was Cooked. He was tattooed for seven runs in 2 ⅔ innings. That's what happens when you're missing, like, half a leg.
Finally Mortensen got to pitch...and the first batter he faced, Mark Reynolds, parked a long three-run homer into the Monster seats. Reynolds now has two homers in his last two games after entering the series 0-for-the-year in dingers. His blast capped a seven-run, seven-hit third-inning for the Birds, giving them an 8-0 lead. I don't know about you, but I'm having fun!
With the Birds' best pitcher on the mound, the eight-run lead seemed safe. And, indeed, Hammel delivered another quality start with the ample run support. His pitch count got a bit inflated after a long first inning-- second baseman Robert Andino made a nice play to strand two runners-- but Hammel once again had his strikeout stuff working. He struck out the side in the second, and he had 7 Ks after four innings. Hammel retired eight batters in a row at one point, helping him get into the seventh inning, though he ran out of gas a bit at that point. Hammel surrendered an RBI double off the Monster to Ryan Sweeney on his 115th and final pitch. All told, Hammel did exactly what the O's had hoped, giving the bullpen a bit of a breather with an extended outing and keeping the Red Sox off the board for most of the afternoon.
Even with a big lead, nothing ever comes easy at Fenway Park, and the late innings were a bit nerve-wracking. After Hammel departed, Darren O'Day allowed his inherited runner to score on a Cody Ross bloop single, then allowed a double to put two in scoring position. But O'Day fanned Marlon Byrd to preserve the 8-2 lead.
In the eighth, O'Day was tagged for a one-out double. With David Ortiz and Adrian Gonzalez up next, Buck Showalter brought in Troy Patton. That certainly surprised me, considering that Patton worked two innings less than 18 hours earlier. Patton faced the two lefties and departed with runners at the corners and two outs. Mike Aviles made a bid for an RBI single up the middle off Matt Lindstrom, but Andino made a tremendous diving stop to record the final out. The Curse of the Andino lives on! A potential Sox rally was stopped in its tracks.
With a six-run lead, Showalter figured it was finally safe to let the reviled Kevin Gregg make his first appearance in eight days. Gregg, happily, rewarded the Orioles with a completely drama-free ninth inning, retiring all three batters and throwing 9 of his 11 pitches for strikes. See, Kevin, if you just pitched like this all the time, you'd never have ended up in the doghouse. The Birds' bullpen has now pitched 10 ⅓ scoreless innings in this series. Just one of the many things that's been coming up roses for the 18-9 Orioles. I'll say it again: This is getting awesome.