The story of tonight's game was the starting pitching. Both Josh Beckett and Wei-Yin Chen were outstanding, giving their teams every chance to win the game. Fortunately for those of us here in Birdland, Chen ended up on top, giving up just one run to Beckett's two.
As well as both Beckett and Chen were throwing it looked like the team that scored first might be the winner. That team was the Red Sox, who scored a single run in the third inning. They threatened for more, but Chen escaped the jam. A double by Darnell McDonald and single from Marlon Byrd put runners on first and third with no outs, but after Mike Aviles hit a sacrifie fly that would score McDonald and account for the Sox only run of the game, Chen struck out Dustin Pedroia and induced a ground ball out from Kevin Youkilis. Masterful! After pitching out of the jam, Chen breezed through the fourth, fifth, and sixth innings.
Chen was good, but honestly, Beckett was probably better (other than that whole, allow less runs thing). The Orioles couldn't get a handle on him, as they managed just one hit against him through five innings. That hit was a single from Endy Chavez in the third, but he was immediately wiped off the bases with a double play from J.J. Hardy. Beckett needed just 49 pitches to complete those five innings.
In the sixth inning, however, the O's eked out a 2-1 lead. Wilson Betemit and Ryan Flaherty hit back-to-back ground ball singles. Neither was hit very hard, but since Betemit was running on the pitch that Flaherty hit he ended up at third. Red Sox killer Robert Andino then stepped to the plate and lined a base hit to right field to tie the game and move Flaherty to third.
Flaherty came in to score on a ball that looked like it could be a double play was hit by Chavez. But the Red Sox couldn't quite turn it and Endy beat out the throw. But the next batter, Hardy, wasn't so lucky, hitting into his second double play of the night and squashing the rally. But the lead was theirs, and Chen wasn't giving it up.
While Beckett settled back in after the sixth and pitched two more easy scoreless innings, Chen found himself in another jam in the seventh. Adrian Gonzalez and Jarrod Saltalamacchia singled with no outs, but then thankfully Bobby Valentine managed himself out of the inning.
First, Valentine took Gonzalez out for a pinch runner, Scott Podsednik. Gonzalez was already in scoring position, but he's not that fast, so....OK. But then the next hitter, McDonald, bunted the runners over! Why exactly do you need a speedster on third base? It could make a bit of a difference in the case of a sacrifice fly, but not much.
In such a close game it was tempting to want to see Chen pulled from the game at this sign of trouble. But Buck Showalter showed faith in Chen and didn't have anyone warming in the bullpen. With runners on second and third and one out, Chen rewarded that faith by striking out Byrd and popping up Aviles. Chen!
Pedro Strop came on to pitch the 8th and preserve the 2-1 lead. He managed to do it, but it wasn't pretty. The first batter he faced was Pedroia, and he made him look clueless as he struck out swinging. But he then walked Youkilis and David Ortiz back-to-back. Argh, no! Pedro! He got Will Middlebrooks to hit a medium-depth fly ball that Adam Jones caught easily, and with two outs Strop just had to retire
Gonzalez oops! Scott Podsednik! One ground ball later and the inning was over.
Though he had just 92 pitches after eight innings, Beckett was feeling discomfort so was removed from the game. Vicente Padilla replaced him in the ninth and got the O's 1-2-3.
That just left the bottom of the ninth, and despite pitching two innings the night before, closer Jim Johnson was back on the mound to close it out. The first batter he faced was the same one who hit a two-run homer off of him one day ago: Saltalamacchia. It took six pitches, but Salty hit a harmless fly ball to left field for the first out. Valentine then sent out two pinch hitters: Ryan Sweeney, hitting for McDonald, and Nava, hitting for Byrd. Johnson struck them both out to end the game.
O's win! With that, they've now won seven straight games at Fenway Park, dating back to last season. They've also secured their eleventh series win on the year and second against the Red Sox. It's also the first game this season in which the Orioles neither hit nor allowed a home run.