The Orioles shut out the Red Sox in a three-inning game on Monday morning and then went back to their hotel rooms to sleep. The game continued without the hitters. They went on to win by a final score of 7-6, a game that was far more nerve-wracking than it needed to be. It wasn't pretty, which has been the case for many of these wins, but the Orioles still managed to salvage the split of the four-game series and stave off the long losing streak you felt coming after last night's bullpen disaster.
For fans who watched Sunday's debacle, it felt like the game was playing off the same script. A starter, Wei-Yin Chen in today's case, looked strong to start out then suddenly fell apart. The offense chased Red Sox starter and general greaseball Clay Buchholz with six runs and only 2.1 innings pitched, then barely did anything for the rest of the game. There were plays that it felt like Manny Machado would have made. And then, the bullpen. Oh, lord. The bullpen.
When Chen departed after five innings, he'd thrown 93 pitches. Thankfully, Buck Showalter seems to have learned his lesson, for today at least, that Chen should not start another inning with such an elevated (for him) pitch count. It took five relievers to get through the last four innings of the game. Three of the five relievers surrendered runs, including Zach Britton and Darren O'Day, each of whom gave up a solo homer while generally looking like a mess.
In the midst of the bullpen failure, one insurance run proved crucial to the game's outcome. That was scratched out courtesy of Steve Clevenger, who was bold or foolish in tagging from first to second on a fly ball to deep center. That left him in position to motor home - backup catcher speed! - on a single to center by Ryan Flaherty, giving the Orioles what was then a three-run cushion. It ended up being the decisive run in the victory.
With every game that goes by, it feels like more reasons are piling up why the Orioles miss third baseman Manny Machado. Monday's game was no exception. Jonathan Schoop is not a bad third baseman, necessarily, although he has made his share of mistakes. He's just not Machado. In the fifth inning, there was a ground ball to Schoop's left, not an easy grounder, but one that Machado would have gobbled up to start a 5-4-3 double play. This was an infield single instead that would have erased all baserunners. Later in the inning, Dustin Pedroia smoked a run-scoring line drive into left field, just below the reach of Schoop.
If Machado was out there, maybe Chen gets through five and even six innings without giving up any runs. The Orioles have to play with the team they have. Schoop made no mistakes today, nothing that would frustrate you. Just, again, he isn't Manny, and the Orioles have paid that price on seemingly a daily basis.
The line on Chen was four hits, three walks, and three runs allowed in five innings, with five strikeouts. That's not so good. It could have looked better if some plays were made, but they weren't. At least Showalter took him out at the right time.
There was one nice inning: the third inning. That's when the Orioles got nearly all of their offense, hanging six runs on the hair goop-laden Buchholz on the strength of five straight singles, an RBI fielder's choice, a double by Clevenger, and another single. The Orioles had ten hits on the day and seven of them came in that inning. A different Oriole got every RBI in the game.
Since they stopped scoring after that, by the end of the game, you could only hold on to your butt. Despite the fact that two left-handers were due up to start the bottom of the ninth and Brian Matusz was already in the game, Showalter summoned Tommy Hunter, because he's the closer. He did not go boom, in the sense that he did not allow a home run, but things got very interesting, and not in a good way.
With one out, Brock Holt reached on an infield single that might have been an out if Steve Lombardozzi hadn't rushed the throw from second. Might have, could have, should have, right? Pedroia stepped to the plate, representing the tying run. The proceedings had an air of tragic inevitability for the Orioles. You just weren't meant to win in Boston the last two nights. Pedroia doubled high off the Green Monster, not missing a home run by much. The winning run came to the plate in the form of David Ortiz.
Tommy Hunter, against the power-hitting 38-year-old lefty. What could possibly go wrong? Showalter made the decision to intentionally walk Ortiz. That goes against conventional baseball wisdom that you should never intentionally put the tying or go-ahead run on base. However, there's a case to be made that was the right play, in the sense that Hunter's probably not going to blow a game due to walks or cheap hits. If he goes boom, it will be spectacularly, not because of a seeing-eye single.
Theater major Mike Napoli, who capably acted out an on-field leg amputation after being hit by a pitch in Sunday's game, grounded out to second. The play scored Holt and moved the tying run to third and the winning run into scoring position. Red Sox manager John Farrell did not opt to use a pinch runner for Ortiz at second, which is the kind of thing that could have mattered, if only Mike Carp did not ground out to first to end the game. It was a nail-biter, but all's well that ends well.
By picking up the win, the Orioles move themselves back up to a .500 record and send the Red Sox back into the cellar of the American League East. The Orioles are 1.5 games back of the leading Yankees, who are off Monday.
With the Red Sox series concluded, the O's will skip across the border into that den of nightmares, Toronto, where they will begin a three-game series on Tuesday at 7:07. Miguel Gonzalez is scheduled to start for the Orioles, with R.A. Dickey starting for Toronto.