I had all but counted the Orioles out in this series, but they have so far proven me wrong with two exciting wins in a row against the Red Sox. Tonight they got past a rocky start by Wei-Yin Chen and held down the potent Red Sox offense through twelve innings before Chris Davis hit an RBI single in the top of the 12th that bounced about 15 times before getting out of the infield. Whew.
The Red Sox got on the board first in this game thanks to a two-run home run by David Ortiz in the first inning. It was an absolute bomb that Ortiz admired for about five minutes before finally leaving the batters box. The 2-0 lead held until the fifth inning, but Chen and Red Sox starter Jake Peavy certainly kept the runs off the board in different ways.
Peavy looked filthy in the first part of this game. He struck out four of the first six batters he faced and didn't allow a baserunner until there were two outs in the third inning, when he walked Brian Roberts. He hit Adam Jones with a pitch in the fourth inning, but the Orioles went into the fifth still looking for their first hit of the game.
Chen, on the other hand, was constantly in trouble. He needed double play balls to get out of the second and third innings, and in the third he loaded the bases before recording an out. He constantly looked on the edge of falling apart, but he didn't. The O's offense rewarded him for that in the top of the fifth.
Danny Valencia lead off the fifth inning for the Orioles and singled to left field for the team's first hit of the day. Of course it was Valencia, with the way he's been hitting lately. He came in to score on a double by Matt Wieters, then Wieters scored on a double by Brian Roberts. Roberts was stranded at second base, but the game was tied.
It didn't stay tied long, though. Peavy retired Chris Davis and Adam Jones to start the sixth innings but allowed Nick Markakis and Valencia to reach on singles. Again Wieters doubled and again a run scored. It probably could have been two but the ball went into the stands so Valencia had to stay at third. Both he and Wieters were stranded when J.J. Hardy grounded out to end the inning.
There was no reason not to send Chen back out for the bottom of the sixth inning, but it still felt kind of wrong. Turns out it was right to feel wrong because Mike Napoli greeted Chen with a solo home run to start things. Chen got two outs but also let two more batters reach base, and that was it for him. Buck Showalter called on Francisco Rodriguez to get out of the inning, and he induced a ground ball from David Ross that resulted in the third out.
Peavy lasted through the seventh inning but after that it was the battle of the bullpens. Kevin Gausman pitched two innings and was absolutely brilliant. He struck out five batters and didn't allow a base hit. He struck out the side in the eighth inning swinging. Tommy Hunter followed that with two scoreless innings of his own, even though there was a scary moment when Hunter had to face Ortiz in the bottom of the tenth inning. With a runner on it seemed to me like a bad idea to let Hunter face a lefty like Ortiz, but again I proved why I'm not a manager. Ortiz grounded into a double play and Hunter got Napoli out to end the inning.
After T.J. McFarland pitched a scoreless eleventh inning, the Orioles offense finally came through. They had failed against relief pitchers Craig Breslow, Junichi Tazawa, and Koji Uehara, but Franklin Morales' second inning of work was too much for him. Two singles and an intentional walk led to Chris Davis coming up to bat with the bases loaded and two outs. I dreamed of home run #52, but that wasn't meant to be. Instead Davis chopped a single back up the middle that looked off the bat like it would be fielded as a grounder in the infield. But it just sneaked through as Roberts and Hardy scored on the play. Davis then got himself picked off first to end the inning, but nobody's perfect.
Jim Johnson was called upon to seal the win and there was a little drama, but not too much considering who was on the mound. Jarrod Saltalamacchia singled to right field, bringing the tying run to the plate. But instead of hitting a game-tying home run, Dustin Pedroia hit a ground ball that looked like it would be a double play. Roberts botched the throw, though, so they only got one out. Pinch hitter Jackie Bradley, Jr. hit the ball back to Johnson, who threw to second. Hardy was able get the out, but the throw was wide and he had no chance at turning a double play.
With two outs, Ortiz stepped to the plate, hoping I'm sure to get to do a little more posing at the plate. But he was denied the pleasure as, instead of hitting another home run, he harmlessly grounded out to second base.
O's win! They will go for the sweep of the Red Sox tomorrow with Chris Tillman pitching against John Lackey. The Indians lost tonight and the Rays beat the Rangers, so now the Orioles are 1/2 game behind Cleveland and 1 game behind Texas, who is still the second WC team.