It was the J.J. Hardy show at Fenway Park on Tuesday night as the shortstop hit two dongs, drove in five runs and made some solid plays in the field to help the Orioles beat the Red Sox 9-5 in cold and breezy Boston.
As a whole, the Orioles continued to show the fight that has made this early season surge so impressive and fun to watch. The went down 2-0 in the first inning, but fought back to tie it at two runs apiece. Then they trailed again 4-2, but pulled even once again before leaving the Red Sox in the dust. This feels like a team that has something special about it. Sure, it may be too early to talk about a World Series, but the more wins they get like this, it gets easier and easier to envision.
The not so Wright stuff
We will get the bad things out of the way because it all really focuses on just one player. Mike Wright took the mound for the first time in the 2016 season. It had been 15 days since he last pitched and he looked a little rusty. I'm not sure how many pitches he bounced, but it was probably somewhere in the 10-15 range, plus he hit two guys in the foot and walked one. Let's just say he was not crisp.
That said, his velocity still looked good in the cold conditions of Boston. He was consistently hitting 94 and 95 on the gun even into the fifth inning, when he was nearing 100 pitches. And he could have given up a lot more runs as he loaded the bases in the fourth inning and managed to get himself out of that mess with no damage done. It's his debut of the season, so we won't go too hard on him yet.
Offense worth the wait
It looked as though it may be a long night for the bats through the first three innings. I mean, they were due to lose one, right? Red Sox starter Clay Buchholz dispatched of the O's bats with little issue early on, but things got dicey in the fourth.
Mark Trumbo took one for the team, getting drilled in the ribs to give the Birds a lead-off runner. Two batters later, Hardy sent a long (sorta) fly ball down the right field line that hit the top of the wall and bounced into the stands for his first home run of the season, giving the O's a 2-0 lead. MASN said after the game that it was the shortest MLB home run of the season so far. It's gonna be tough for anyone to beat that.
In the sixth inning, the O's got back on the board. Trailing 4-2 at the time, Chris Davis led off with a walk. Trumbo followed him and put in a heck of an at-bat, fouling off pitch after pitch, including a foul pop that Red Sox catcher Blake Swihart whiffed on. The O's right fielder capitalized on the opportunity, and sent a bomb over the green monster to tie the game 4-4. That ball is probably still going.
That same inning, Matt Wieters walked and then Pedro Alvarez doubled to set the table for Hardy. The shortstop came through again, hitting a sacrifice fly to right-center, which nearly fell in for a hit, scoring Wieters from third to give the O's their first lead of the evening, 5-4.
But they weren't done there. The seventh inning saw them put the cherry on the sundae. Manny Machado led off with a single, extending his seven-game hit streak. One batter later, Trumbo was at it again, doubling to give the O's second and third with no outs. Wieters drove them both in with a singe a batter later. Alvarez then reached on a fielder's choice (Wieters out at second base) and then it was Hardy AGAIN! He hit a long (kinda?) fly ball down the right field line AGAIN! And hit a home run AGAIN! It was his second on the day and pretty much sealed the win for the Birds.
Saving the key bullpen guys
Wright earned the win, but he did so in five unspectacular innings. That meant turning to the bullpen early on in a game again. That is something that is going to have to change soon. The O's relief corps is darn good, but they cant throw four innings every single night.
But they did tonight and the first man out of the pen was Dylan Bundy. He utilized his off-speed stuff a lot more than his previous appearance this year. The curveball looked serviceable and his change-up was nasty a couple times. He should be a nice piece out there. Tonight, he threw 2.1 innings and allowed one run on three hits, but did not walk or strikeout anyone.
In the eighth inning, Bundy started to lose some of his sharpness and was replaced by southpaw T.J. McFarland. The lefty did a nice job, getting out of Bundy's little jam in the eighth and getting two outs in the ninth inning. Darren O'Day made a brief cameo to get the final out of the game. It was an odd decision as he did just pitch on Sunday, but I guess eight pitches won't hurt him.
-MASN's Gary Thorne was in rare form. At one point, he said a ball hit off the "very top of the Green Monster" when, in fact, Joey Rickard had caught it for an out. Later on he called Mark Tumbo "Mike", Just great stuff.
-Rickard extended his career-opening hit streak to seven games with an eighth-inning single.
-Adam Jones made another appearance, playing two innings of centerfield again.
-Ryan Flaherty was the left fielder. At one point he played a ball off the wall perfectly, but another time he seemed to just give up on a fly ball down the line, which turned into a double
1st inning - David Ortiz home run with Dustin Pedroia on base.
5th inning - Jackie Bradley Jr. scored on a Mookie Betts double. Betts scored on a wild pitch a few batters later.
8th inning - Xander Bogaerts scored on an Ortiz double to center field
The Orioles have already won the series, but tomorrow they go for the sweep and the chance to become 8-0, which would be pretty awesome. Ubaldo Jimenez (1-0, 1.29 ERA) will take the pill for the Orioles. He will be opposed by righty Joe Kelly (0-0, 21.00). First pitch is 7:10 p.m. at Fenway Park.