After the slugfests at Camden Yards two weeks ago, the Red Sox and the Orioles opened this Fenway Park series with a tense one-run nailbiter. Because of course, why not?
The Orioles opened the scoring off Red Sox ace David Price right away. In the top of the first, Adam Jones struck out swinging, but Joey Rickard singled and Manny Machado snuck a flyball around the Pesky Pole, in what I shall forever refer to as the "J.J. Hardy Special", to put the Orioles up 2-0.
At first, Chris Tillman seemed determined to give the lead right back. Coming off a great start against Kansas City (7.1 IP, 9 K, 0 BB), Tillman worked around a Dustin Pedroia single in the bottom of the 1st but danced with the Devil in the bottom of the 2nd. David Ortiz led off with a double into right field, and Tillman walked Hanley Ramirez. He then struck out Jackie Bradley, Jr. and Chris Young, but he walked Travis Shaw to load the bases with two out. Thankfully, after starting 9-hole hitter Christian Vazquez 3-0, he got Vazquez to ground into a forceout to end the threat.
The Orioles appreciated this reprieve, because the offense went silent for the next five innings. David Price was on point, mowing down hitter after hitter, striking out batter after batter. After the Machado dinger he retired 19 in a row, not allowing a baserunner until Mark Trumbo singled in the top of the 7th. Tillman generally matched him, allowing some hits here and there but striking out a lot of batters himself, keeping the score right where it was.
Then in the bottom of the 7th, with Tillman over 100 pitches already, Jackie Bradley Jr. hammered a solo shot to center field, cutting the lead to 2-1. Things looked grim but Tillman stayed sharp, working around a Travis Shaw single to escape further damage. Ultimately he pitched well, going 7 innings, striking out seven, walking two, and giving up just the solo shot.
Jonathan Schoop got the run right back on the first pitch of the 8th inning, sending a ball over the Green Monster to make it 3-1 Orioles. The run helped because when Mychal Givens relieved Tillman to start the bottom half, Mookie Betts doubled and tagged to third base on a Dustin Pedroia flyout. Givens then walked Xander Bogaerts to put runners on the corners. With one out and David Ortiz at the plate, Buck brought in Zach Britton for a rare five-out save.
Britton delivered. He struck Ortiz out easily on three swinging strikes. Hanley Ramirez managed a hard groundball single up the middle, scoring Betts and making it 3-2 Orioles. But Jackie Bradley, Jr. grounded out on a 1-0 pitch and the inning was over.
The 9th was tense but ultimately uneventful. Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel preserved the score, befuddling the Orioles batters with 98 MPH fastballs offset by 86 MPH slurves. There was a fun moment where he buzzed Chris Davis up and in and Davis, after blooping out to the shallow infield, made sure to cross very close to Kimbrel on his way back to the dugout. But no fisticuffs ensued, and Mark Trumbo struck out. In the bottom half Britton nailed the door shut 1-2-3, striking out the side to earn the save and preserve the win.