The Baltimore Orioles started off their series with the Boston Red Sox with a bang, slugging three home runs to support their starter Wei-Yin Chen, who struggled at times but came through with six innings of one-run baseball. The win puts the Orioles 10 games over .500 and keeps them at the top of the Wild Card race for another day.
Oh, Red Sox. How the tides have turned. Not to be the arrogant Orioles fan, but with a 7-3 record so far this season and having won 13 of their last 17 against them (h/t Britt Ghiroli), it's getting so that I actually look forward to seeing them on the schedule.
Josh Beckett was the starting pitcher for the Red Sox tonight, and for the first few innings it looked like he might not be the Josh Beckett that the world has gotten used to seeing this season. He got through two innings with little trouble, but then had to face the Orioles secret weapon: Omar Quintanilla. Omar socked a home run to the flag court in right field to give the Orioles a 1-0 lead. It was the best kind of homer, the kind that makes the opposing team's right fielder just turn and watch. It was Quintanilla's third home run as an Oriole and the sixth of his career.
The lead was short-lived, as the Red Sox scored their one and only run in the top of the fourth inning. Cody Ross led off with a double and came around to score on a single from Carl Crawford. The Red Sox couldn't turn it into a rally, though as Chen struck out Mike Aviles and got Danny Valencia on a fly ball to end the inning. A two-out triple in the top of the fifth inning by Dustin Pedroia put on the go-ahead run for the Red Sox, but Chen induced a ground out from Adrian Gonzalez.
Mark Reynolds had a big day today. It started in the fifth inning with an opposite field home run to the flag court. It's a rare day when Reynolds goes opposite field, and it gave the O's a 2-1 lead. They couldn't do anything else in the inning and I found myself thinking, "Come on, guys! It's Josh Beckett!" But they knew, and they took full advantage in the next inning.
Despite just one run on the board through five innings, Chen's stuff didn't look as sharp as it has on other occasions. It started to look dicey in the sixth inning, as singles by Ross and Crawford put runners on first and third with one out. You see, the problem for the Red Sox is that when Ross and Crawford do something, they're followed by Aviles and Valencia. We know that feeling, don't we? Chen struck out Aviles for the third time, and Valencia again flew out. Well done, Chen!
Now, the bottom of the sixth. That's when it got really fun, friends. J.J. Hardy started things off with a seeing-eye single to left field, and after Nate McLouth popped out, Adam Jones took a walk. Both runners moved up on a wild pitch, then Matt Wieters hit a high Baltimore Chop towards the pitchers mound. As Beckett, Pedroia, and Aviles converged on the ball, it slipped under Aviles' glove and Hardy came in to score the third run.
For some reason, Jones didn't move to third on the infield hit by Wieters. It could have ended up looking like a real bone-headed move, but it turned out that it didn't matter. Chris Davis singled to right field and Jones scored easily to make the score 4-1.
Davis was the last batter that Beckett pitched to, and he left the game with just one out and two runners on base. The Red Sox fans in the crowd (they're still there, sadly) booed him as he left the field. He was replaced by Mark Melancon, who threw one pitch to Reynolds. That's all it took for Reynolds to crush a pitch to left field for his second home run of the night. The three-run bomb gave the O's a lead of 7-1, and made Beckett's final pitching line: 5.1 IP, 6 H, 6 R, 2 BB, 2 K, 2 HR.
Armed with a big lead, Chen came back out to start the seventh, but didn't record an out. Jacoby Ellsbury singled and Buck pulled him to a nice ovation from the crowd. Time to turn to the bullpen. I love the bullpen! First up was Darren O'Day, who struck out Pedro Ciriaco but then gave up a double to Pedroia to put runners on second and third. He walked the next batter, Gonazalez, on just four pitches. Was he pitching around him? If so, it worked. O'Day then struck out both Ross and Ryan Lavarnway to get out of trouble.
That was it for rallies from both sides, as the bullpens shut things down from there. J.C. Romero made his Orioles debut, pitching one inning in which he gave up a single. Matt Lindstrom pitched a 1-2-3 ninth to finish the game.
Great game by the O's. Let's do it again tomorrow!