Watching the Red Sox as the Orioles beat them 10-6 on Wednesday afternoon was like peering into a mirror and seeing a darker past. A disinterested team putting out a lineup full of players who are either checked out of the season or probably not major league level talent to begin with. We've seen that story before, not so long ago really. It's so much better being on the other end of that.
The Wednesday win temporarily gives the Orioles a 10.5 game lead in the American League East, pending the evening's action. The Yankees are in action at home against the Rays, while the Blue Jays host the Cubs. The magic number to clinch the division is now 8. This is not a drill. This is not a dream. This is not a joke.
Things were so much in the Orioles favor that they were even able to pull off a win in a day game started by a Red Sox pitcher, Brandon Workman, who came into the game with an ERA near 5. These things often work against the Orioles, but in this game nearly everything came up Birdland.
It helps when you bat around in the third inning of the game. That's exactly what the Orioles were able to do. The party got started with a Ryan Flaherty infield single. Things looked calm enough then, but after a brief interruption from a Jonathan Schoop popout, the Orioles offense - helped out by the Red Sox inability to field - fired into high gear. Following that popout, the next eight Orioles reached base, spraying hits all over the field. There was even a bases loaded walk issued to Steve Pearce.
They smoked hard-hit balls past Sox third baseman Carlos Rivero, like an Adam Jones double that drove in two runs. They hit little bloopers at him that a real third baseman would have caught. They even benefited when he committed an error on a Nelson Cruz grounder that should have been a routine out. When all was said and done they had six runs on six hits. Schoop made two outs in the inning.
Being staked to a six run lead was more than enough for Orioles starter Wei-Yin Chen, who carried a perfect game into the sixth inning before allowing a one out double to Sox catcher Dan Butler, a ball that ricocheted off the Green Monster about halfway up the wall in left center. This was Butler's first major league hit. Good timing. It wasn't really that long of a perfect game in progress, long enough that you notice but not long enough that you really start getting excited.
In the end, there was no need to lament a lone hit. Chen pitched seven innings, allowing three hits while striking out four. Chen lost the shutout on a leadoff home run by Xander Bogaerts in the seventh inning. He'd only thrown 93 pitches when he was pulled, but why work him harder than needed in a blowout? Chen is a guy who seems to benefit from extra rest when he gets it.
Unlike some games where the Orioles score early and then go quiet at the plate, they piled on as the game went on. Caleb Joseph hit a home run off the top of the Green Monster wall, driving in two runs. The ball actually bounced back into the field of play, leaving a confused Joseph at first base until he realized the umpire signaled a home run. It was Joseph's ninth home run of the year and his first since his streak of five straight games with a homer.
The O's even tacked on a couple more in the ninth inning, with defensive replacement Kelly Johnson driving in a run on a double and Flaherty driving in another on a double of his own.
For Flaherty, it was a banner day, going 4-5 with two RBI from the #8 spot in the lineup. Joseph was another star, going 3-5 with three RBI. Adam Jones also had a multi-hit for the game, going 3-5 with a pair of doubles and two RBI.
The extra runs proved to be important as garbage time reliever Joe Saunders was a disaster in the ninth inning, giving up five runs in only a third of an inning as he failed to close out a game he entered with his team up by nine runs. The mess was capped off by giving up Rivero's first major league home run, which brought home three runs and forced O's manager Buck Showalter to burn a reliever who matters in the game.
That reliever was Tommy Hunter, who was supposed to close the door. Instead, he and the fielders behind him combined to make things even more dramatic. A pop fly for the second out was nearly bungled by the outfield tandem of Quintin Berry (ninth inning replacement) and Alejandro De Aza. They bumped into one another and Berry juggled the ball before making the catch.
Hunter then walked Mookie Betts, and Showalter decided to use another reliever who matters to try to get the game's last out. All of the ninth inning tomfoolery created a save situation for Darren O'Day. Bogaerts hit a sharp grounder to Johnson at third, who fielded it and stepped on third for the force to bring the game to a close. A win is a win. Even if it's more interesting than it needed to be.
Chen picked up the win for the game, raising his record to a surprising 15-4. The save was O'Day's third. Workman got the loss for Boston, dropping to 1-9.
The O's get an off day back home on Thursday before playing a split doubleheader against the Yankees on Friday. The day part of the doubleheader has a scheduled 1:05 start. Brandon McCarthy and Kevin Gausman are the probable starting pitchers.