It was wild evening at Fenway Park. Ubaldo Jimenez, after allowing no hits through 3.2 innings, was ejected and the Orioles offense fell asleep after the fifth inning. Unfortunately, the Red Sox won the first match of the four-game set with a walk-off single from Xander Bogaerts by a score of 3-2.
Through the first three innings of the game, the two teams combined for one hit (a double from Chris Davis) and no runs. The match-up had early inklings of a pitcher's duel with the flamethrower Joe Kelly on the mound for Boston, and the reinvented Jimenez tossing for the O's.
Baltimore was the first on the board. Travis Snider and Adam Jones led off the top of the fourth inning with back-to-back singles. Snider made it all the way to third on Jones' single into the left-center gap. Davis followed by bouncing into a double play, scoring Snider.
Then, in the bottom of the fourth, after three and two-thirds of no-hit ball, Jimenez plunked Pablo Sandoval in the back with a fastball on the first pitch of the at-bat. Immediately, 33-year-old umpire Jordan Baker hopped from behind the plate and ejected the Orioles pitcher from the game, causing both Twitter and manager Buck Showalter to explode.
After the game, Showalter called the moment "professionally embarrassing" and that he hopes MLB will "take the proper steps" in regards to the situation. Call me a pessimist, but I doubt much will come of it.
"You've got a lot of inexperienced guys up here because of the replay," Showalter said. "It's unfortunate because (Jimenez) could have been the difference tonight."
"I had three walks today," Jimenez said. "It's not like I had the best control of my career...I was shocked being thrown out of the game without warning. Without any history with that player."
After speaking with Showalter for a few moments, Baker then issued warnings to both benches. Excuse me, but that sounds a bit backwards.
To give the moment some context, Jimenez hit Sandoval a few innings after the rotund Red Sock slid hard in Orioles second baseman Jonathan Schoop to break up a double play. Granted, it was a tough slide, but few would venture to call it dirty. Maybe it's worth a four-seamer to the numbers, bu probably not. That should have been the end of it. One punch thrown by each team, warnings issued, over and out.
Jerry Meals on ejection: "It’s close to the head, it was a dangerous pitch, so it’s an automatic." #Orioles #OriolesTalk— Rich Dubroff (@RichDubroffCSN) April 18, 2015
Instead, Showalter was forced to go to the bullpen early in the first game of a 13-games-in-13-days stretch for the Birds. It was then on the relievers to get the final 16 outs of the evening, and they couldn't quite get it done.
Jimenez's evening ended early with 3.2 innings pitched, no hits, no runs on three walks, two strikeouts and one big, unfortunate hit-by-pitch.
Right-hander Kevin Gausman was the first on the bump, managing to finish up the fourth with one pitch.
In the top of the fifth, Caleb Joseph led off with a home run that would have likely been an out in any other stadium but Fenway Park. It snuck over the wall near Pesky's Pole in right field. For a moment, everyone was confused as to where the ball was. Meanwhile, Joseph was sprinting around the bases, recording what may be the fastest "home run trot" in Orioles history, but that is unconfirmed at this point. 2-0 Orioles.
Gausman allowed a home run of his own in the bottom of the inning by hanging a slider, to Ryan Hanigan of all people. It went over the Green Monster with Xander Bogaerts on base, tying the score at 2-2.
The LSU alum exited an inning later. His line: 1.2 innings, two runs on three hits a walk and a strikeout. His season ERA now sits at 9.00; not ideal. Submariner Darren O'Day took his spot, tossing 1.2 perfect innings with two strikeouts.
The Red Sox pitching staff baffled the Orioles lineup after the fifth inning. Kelly went 5.2 innings and allowed just the two runs on four hits, two walks and three strikeouts. And then Edward Mujica, Junichi Tazawa and former-Oriole Koji Uehara pitched 3.1 scoreless innings, allowing just one hit and striking out five as a trio.
Brian Matusz came on to work the eighth and bent but didn't break, allowing two runners to reach but ultimately getting out of trouble. Somewhat surprisingly, the southpaw stayed on to start the ninth.
Mike Napoli walked on four pitches before Daniel Nava sacrificed to move Napoli into scoring position. Matusz was removed in favor of right-hander Tommy Hunter. On his second pitch out of the 'pen, Hunter allowed a soft single into right field off the bat of Xander Bogaerts, scoring Napoli and giving the Red Sox a 3-2 win.
"It's just one of those ones you've got to swallow and move on. This game moves quick," Hunter said. "I think we are a pretty confident group. Balls are landing and it's just unfortunate leaving a ball up here and a ball up there. It's 10 games, not time to push the panic button."
OK, no panic buttons being pushed, but come on. This is supposed to "Camden North", Tommy. We have a reputation to uphold. I guess I have gotten a little greedy.
The O's have a chance to reassert their dominance on the New England-ers tomorrow. Chris Tillman is set to take the hill for the Birds. The Red Sox will counter with Clay Buchholz. First pitch is 4:05 p.m. ET.