Some low-scoring baseball games are tense and thrilling affairs. This lumbering three-hour behemoth, likely dragged to such lengths by standard Red Sox shenanigans, was not one of those games. It was, however, a game that the Orioles ended up winning, racking up a 1-0 win that was, if not compelling, certainly close. The game's only run scored as a result of a wild pitch.
Each team had a total of eight baserunners in the game: five hits, three walks. Neither team managed to score a run by getting a hit with runners in scoring position. No one looked good at anything at any point in this game. Pitchers didn't look good. Hitters didn't look good. Umpires didn't look good, with two blown calls in a span of two batters at one point in the game.
O's starter Miguel Gonzalez left the game after only 4.1 innings pitched with what was announced as a right groin strain. That's also not good.
Fortunately for the Orioles, it ended up being Red Sox reliever Matt Barnes and catcher Blake Swihart who looked the least good.
Facing the one that got away
The game began for the O's facing off against former Orioles pitching prospect Eduardo Rodriguez, traded to Boston last year. Rodriguez has dazzled in his first two starts. He was much less dazzling tonight, taking 27 pitches to get through the first inning, although the Orioles did not score despite having two men on with only one out. In the fourth inning, the Orioles pulled off the same sort of situation, snuffed out that time when Steve Pearce grounded into a double play.
Rodriguez proved adept at pitching out of the jams he got into in the game, or perhaps the Orioles proved incompetent at capitalizing on those opportunities. You don't want to go giving Trembleyan tips of the cap for mediocre performance, because that's loser talk, but at the same time it's good to recognize that the other team's players are also MLB players who are trying to win a game.
He pitched himself into another jam in the fifth inning. J.J. Hardy led off the inning with a single. The next batter, Ryan Flaherty, in the #9 spot in the lineup, squared away to attempt a sacrifice bunt, because bunting is apparently a disease that strikes at inopportune moments. Instead of letting him bunt, Rodriguez threw a pitch that was ended up in Flaherty's ribs. It was probably not intentional because why would Rodriguez be mad at Flaherty, but who ever knows.
You would think that two men on and the lineup turning over would be an ideal situation, and indeed it ought to have been, only Manny Machado, despite being spotted an infield at double play depth with the corner infielders guarding against a bunt, could not manage any more than a slow roller ground ball to short that was nonetheless fast enough to cut down the lead runner, Hardy, at third. Delmon Young and Adam Jones both followed up with strikeouts. The threat was over.
Two replays in the span of two batters
With two outs in the bottom of the sixth-inning, newly-returned Nolan Reimold hit a ground ball deep in the hole at short that, due to his gazelle-like speed, he was able to beat for an infield single, or so the first base umpire ruled. Red Sox manager John Farrell asked for a replay challenge, which looked to be one of those garden variety challenges that is not conclusive either way.
Reimold was either as out as you can be without being safe or as safe as you can be without being out. It was that close. For my part, I thought that Reimold was out, just barely, but I've seen more clear replays ruled as inconclusive. New York came back and overturned the call, however.
As fate would have it, the leadoff batter for the next inning, Xander Bogaerts, also got involved in a nearly identical play at first base. Bogaerts lined a ball that ricocheted off the back of O's reliever Chaz Roe and bounced to Hardy. Hardy fired to Steve Pearce at first base. The umpire ruled safe and, again, it seemed Bogaerts was either as safe as you can be without being out or as out as you can be without being safe.
This time the Orioles called for a challenge that lasted over two minutes. I thought the New York umpires would find a way to screw the Orioles. They did not. Bogaerts was out. The game moved on.
A run finally scores
In the bottom of the inning, Pearce, who was the first batter after Rodriguez was pulled from the game, promptly hit a soaring fly ball that bounced high up on the out-of-town scoreboard in right field. It was almost out of there. Instead it was a leadoff double off of Sox reliever Barnes. That's still good.
The next batter, Hardy, singled to center field once again and, in defiance of his tradition, the Windmill put up the stop sign to hold up Pearce at third base - for good reason. He'd have been toast at the plate. This was the right decision, as, two pitches later, Barnes unloaded a wild pitch that reached the backstop. Pearce scored. The Orioles had a 1-0 lead.
After that, Flaherty bunted to get Hardy to third, but Machado and Young once again failed to come through in that situation. The Orioles would have to make one run count.
Britton a five-out hero once again
The top of the eighth inning started out for the Sox with Roe throwing a pitch that was up and in to Dustin Pedroia, which may have disturbed some molecules in the air in the vicinity of Pedroia's knuckles. Pedroia hit the deck, which is fair, because it was fairly close to his head. Farrell, unable to resist the urge in his Red Sox DNA to whine over nothing, came out and talked home plate umpire into awarding Pedroia first base.
There was yet another challenge in response to this play, with Showalter arguing that the ball never touched Pedroia, probably because the ball never touched Pedroia. The New York contingent dissented, however, confirming the play within 35 seconds. I never saw anything to indicate the ball ever touched Pedroia. Maybe they saw something else.
Roe walked Brock Holt before getting Sox right fielder Rusney Castillo to hit a chopper in front of the plate. Catcher Matt Wieters, in his first game back at Camden Yards, did his Wieters thing and pounced, firing the ball to third to get the lead runner.
In the eighth inning, you might have expected to see Darren O'Day. Instead it was time to salute those who were about to rock. Zach Britton strode in from the bullpen. Two men on? No big deal for Zach. He got clutch strikeouts of The Vandal David Ortiz, as well as Mike Napoli. The Ortiz strikeout was a called third strike and generated this hilarious tweet from MASN:
Ortiz did not respond to this call by destroying any property in the dugout or clubhouse as far as I am aware.
It's a bold move to bring in your closer in the eighth inning. Britton showed why it can work out. He finished off the bottom of the Red Sox lineup in a relatively drama-free ninth, although he did put the tying run on with a walk to Mookie Betts before getting Swihart to end the game on a ground ball to short with the putout at second ahead of a sliding Betts.
The Orioles won, somehow, and now the Red Sox are the last place Boston Red Sox.
The two teams will continue this series on Wednesday evening at the standard civilized baseball time of 7:05pm Eastern. The currently scheduled starting pitchers are Wei-Yin Chen and Rick Porcello.