Wow. I'm not really sure where to start with this one. I think I'll start with this: Tonight, for the first time that I'm aware of, fans were asked not to leave the park (beginning sometime in the later innings) due to some things going on in the city outside the ballpark. I'm not going to get into what was happening or why, but these people were asked to stay for their own safety and to prevent further incidents. On a rainy, cold night that went extra innings, I'm sure it was not easy for everyone who couldn't leave when it may have best suited them. While this is almost certainly an isolated incident and not something I expect to happen again anytime soon, it was all somewhat troubling and made it hard to care too much whether the Orioles won or lost. I hope everyone who was at the game tonight got home safely and quietly. Now on to the recap...
Could this be the game that does it? Could this be the game we look back on a few weeks from now, when the Orioles rotation has made another shift to being far better than everyone thought and help lead the team to another winning season? Maybe. In a performance I'm not sure anyone saw coming, Wei-Yin Chen pitched eight (eight!) innings, giving up only two runs (all on a home run of course), retiring the last 12 batters he faced in a row. He only gave up one walk and had five strikeouts. It was the kind of start we had been waiting for all season, and you can only hope gets something going.
Despite Chen's great start, he didn't get the win and the team almost lost. It started off well. A few hits in the first gave the O's an early 2-0 lead. The Red Sox came right back though, with Mike Napoli getting a 2-run HR to tie it back up in the 2nd. If you started thinking around this point you knew how this one was going to play out, you would've been forgiven. It certainly seemed to be following a certain script over the next few innings. Even though Chen was pitching great and was getting some great defensive help from Machado and De Aza, the offense continued to struggle with runners in scoring position. For the game they left eight men on base and were 2 for 11 with RISP. I think at some point they'll have to start converting more of those baserunners into runs, but I sure wish it would happen sooner than later.
Things got a little more interesting in the fifth inning though when Paredes (who is making the case to be the Duquette signing that exceeds expectations more than all the others) hit a solo HR to give the Orioles a 3-2 lead. After that, everything in the game moved pretty quickly, almost like everyone knew the rain was coming and they just wanted to get out of there. I think the ninth inning started somewhere around the two-hour mark in the game, which was pretty impressive (especially for a Red Sox game).
Then in the ninth inning, Zach Britton comes in for the save, and gives up a leadoff walk to Dustin Pedroia. He strikes out Ortiz, but then Ramirez reaches on a single after Navarro bobbles the ball trying to turn the double play. Then Mike Napoli reaches 1st after Britton tries to make a play for the ball and mishandles it. Finally, Pablo Sandoval hits a grounder to Manny Machado, who gets the force out at third, only to miss the throw to Chris Davis at 1st, which allows Pedroia to score from 3rd. Tie game. The rain was coming down pretty hard by this point, and I have to think that had something to do with it. Craig strikes out to end the inning, but the damage was done and the game went to the 10th.
Things continue badly from there as Xander Bogaerts hits a solo HR off Brad Brach to give the Red Sox the 4-3 lead. Eventually Brian Matusz comes in to face David Ortiz, who grounds into a double play for last two outs. I think the fans were allowed to leave the park by this point, and I'm guessing a lot of them did. But tonight, things were going to go the Orioles way. Adam Jones leads off the bottom of the inning with a triple after a line drive to the outfield gets by the Red Sox fielders, even though it looked like the ball would be caught right up until the time it wasn't. Chris Davis then continued his turn around on the season by hitting a sac fly (opposite field!) that would score Jones and tie the game. Then David Lough came up, who had come in to pinch run for Snider in the 8th and hits his first walkoff HR to win the game on a deep shot to left field. Lough knew it was a home run as soon as it left his bat, and was grinning all the way around the bases, as he should have. David Lough may not be everyone's favorite player (I think he's underrated myself), but tonight he got the job done.
And that was it. The Orioles won and broke their five game losing streak, tying up the series and setting up a rubber match tomorrow afternoon. The Orioles have a lot of work to do to get themselves out of the hole they dug during that losing streak, but this was a good start with good offense, (some) good defense, and the best outing by a starter this season. Well done, guys.