Every reliever is a failed starter. We know this, even if we forget it. Relievers are terrible. They're really the worst. In a wild 12-inning affair in Boston, both the Orioles and the Red Sox proved this. In the end, it was the Boston relievers who were more terrible, and the Orioles walked away with a 7-6 win in the series finale on Sunday.
The game took five hours and five minutes to play. Even for a game that goes 12 innings, that's an ordeal. Roughly one hour out of that time was the seventh inning, in which the Orioles managed to score four runs off three Boston pitchers and the Red Sox scored five runs off four Baltimore pitchers. That's because middle relievers are awful; if they weren't awful, they wouldn't be middle relievers.
In the end, thanks to three unlikely innings from Brad Brach, the Orioles outlasted the Red Sox good relievers. Boston's luck finally ran out in the top of the twelfth inning when they tried to get a second inning out of Edward Mujica, or, as the NESN broadcast calls him, Edwahd Maheeker. The guy has an ERA above 5. That's the kind of pitcher who gives up a leadoff triple to defensive replacement David Lough, who lined a laser into the triangle in center field in Fenway Park that center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. just couldn't catch up to before it rolled to the wall.
It was a 6-6 game then, and with no out, the Orioles had the go-ahead run on third base. The only solution was to draw the infield in. This is a wing and a prayer move for a baseball team. Over that drawn-in infield, Orioles Magic prevailed - J.J. Hardy bounced a grounder over a leaping Stephen Drew to plate the run that proved decisive in the contest. Zach Britton sent down the Red Sox, including noted vandal and entitled whiner David Ortiz, in order in the bottom of the 12th for his 14th save of the season.
That is a good result, but it should have been awesome for different reasons. Unfortunately, the Orioles were stagnant early in the game against Jake Peavy, who exists with a 4.64 ERA in this time when everyone wonders where the offense went. They only scored two runs off of Peavy, one of which was the result of an error by the disaster area that currently exists in the form of the tarnished mega-hype of Xander Bogaerts.
That kind of ruined the great outing by Orioles starter Kevin Gausman, who did everything he could to show he belongs to be up in the big leagues for good. Gausman was blowing 99mph heat past hapless Red Sox batters, dotting the low/outside corner of the plate with 97mph gas, leaving them looking hopeless swinging over 85mph pitches that no one even knows how to classify. He even hit triple digits on the Fenway gun, which was probably hot, but who cares? ONE HUNDRED MILES PER HOUR GAUSMANIA IS RUNNING WILD ON YOU.
Gausman went into the sixth inning having thrown 89 pitches and he was clearly out of steam by then. After a walk, fielder's choice, and single, it was time to lift Gausman. He left with a 2-0 lead and a man on third base. T.J. McFarland gave up a David Ortiz single that would have harmlessly gone into the shift if the bases were empty. The run was charged to Gausman, who finished with 5.1 innings, four hits, two walks, and seven strikeouts. He's also probably getting optioned to the minors over the All-Star Break because the Orioles hate him and us.
The seventh inning... I don't even want to talk about it. The Orioles made a meal out of a pair of Red Sox relievers, Burke Badenhop and Junichi Tazawa, against whom they scored four runs. Those guys had pretty much nothing today, which of course meant it was a great chance for the Orioles to have a run thrown out at the plate to end an inning where they'd scored four runs.
That runner was Manny Machado, tagging on a fly ball to center field that had Bradley with all momentum towards home plate. It was dumb, but whatever, the Orioles were ahead 6-1, what could that possibly matter?
As it turned out, quite a lot, because McFarland, Ryan Webb, Brian Matusz, and Tommy Hunter united to showcase their own failure in the bottom of the inning, combining to allow five runs. Matusz gets particular demerits for failing at his one job, getting out David Ortiz. Matusz induced a grounder that probably would have been an out if there were no men on base - a common theme against Ortiz today.
When the dust settled, it was a 6-6 tie at the end of the seventh inning. The Orioles went scoreless against Andrew Miller in the eighth inning and Koji Uehara in the ninth (as well as the tenth) to send the game into extra innings. The Red Sox proved similarly futile against Hunter in the eighth and Brach in the ninth, tenth, and eleventh.
It wasn't pretty, and it certainly wasn't fun at times, but a win is a win. The Orioles did what you are supposed to do when you're a first place team playing against a fourth place team. Boston looked their position in the standings. The O's got it done in the end. Sometimes, that's all you can ask for.
Across twelve innings, the Orioles got 16 hits and walked three times (lol). Nelson Cruz chipped in three hits and scored two runs, the kind of performance that waves a giant middle finger in response to the comments made by John Lackey on Saturday. Five other Orioles had multi-hit games, including J.J. Hardy, who went 2-4 with three runs batted in - one of which was the winning run. Every Orioles starter had a hit except for Delmon Young. That did not include the slumping Chris Davis, who had the day off.
Even more interesting, the Orioles won the game without hitting a home run, which is only the third time they have done so since April 26. The second time was Thursday's win against the Rangers. They've now won six of their last seven games and pulled off a hot stretch against terrible teams like you're supposed to do.
This win combined with a Blue Jays loss in Oakland means that the Orioles now hold a lead of two games in the American League East.
Following this marathon, the Orioles head to the Washington mallpark to face the Nationals. They'll play two games in the district before heading to Baltimore for two more. Monday's contest will pit the Orioles against Stephen Strasburg. The O's starter is Chris Tillman.