The calendar only read May 2, the season not even a month old, but Tuesday night the Orioles squared off against the Boston Red Sox for the eighth time in 2017. It was the two teams fifth game at Fenway Park and at first pitch the O’s stood atop the American League East with a record of 16-8, while the Red Sox were 3.5 games back at 13-12.
Joey Rickard led off the game with a strikeout against LHP Chris Sale. Normal enough. Then things got weird.
At the request earlier Tuesday by Red Sox RF Mookie Betts, Adam Jones received a standing ovation in his first bat. It was a high-class move by Boston fans after the disturbing events on Monday night involving racial epithets directed at Jones, as well as a thrown bag of peanuts.
Following a Jones strikeout, and before anyone could appreciate the actions of Bostonians, Chris Sale reminded everyone why so many Red Sox players are viewed with skepticism in Baltimore.
Apparently in retaliation for Dylan Bundy hitting Betts on Monday, Sale – a pitcher that has shown impeccable control during 2017 – threw behind Manny Machado. The pitch was obviously intentional. Both Buck Showalter and John Farrell came on the field, Sale wasn’t ejected and the teams were “warned” against further paybacks.
Manny Machado proceed to strikeout and Sale downed the side with three strikeouts on 10 pitches. It was time to play baseball. Maybe.
On to the game
In the bottom of the second inning, 1B Mitch Moreland doubled to center field off O’s starting pitcher Alec Asher and 2B Dustin Pedroia followed with a hit scoring the first run of the game. After two innings, it was 1-0 Boston.
Through three, Sale had faced nine O’s and sent nine down with seven strikeouts. After four, it was 12 up and 12 down with eight strikeouts. Chris Sale was dealing. In the bottom of the fourth, DH Hanley Ramirez – amid an eight-game hitting streak – homered over the Green Monster making it 2-0.
Cracks developed for Boston in the fifth with a Chris Davis walk, followed two batters later by a Trey Mancini double making it 2-1. Chris Sale was human after all.
Asher tries to keep up with Sale
Making only his second start of the season, O’s starting pitcher Alec Asher was asked to out pitch one of the American League’s best in Chris Sale.
Asher pitched well enough and kept the O’s in the game. Following his fourth inning home run, Hanley Ramirez got to Asher again in the sixth on an 0-2 breaking ball with his second home run of the night.
On the evening, Asher was credited with a quality start, going six innings and giving up six hits, three runs, walking one and striking out four. Asher threw 101 pitches and the outing gives hope to the back end of the O’s rotation moving forward.
Manny Machado gets payback; O’s offense struggles
In the seventh, Machado reminded the Red Sox why he is one of – if not the – best player in baseball. Facing Sale, just two at bats after being thrown at (again), Machado smoked a home run to left center drawing the O’s to within one run, 3-2. The trot around the bases was slow, and for Machado, surely enjoyable.
For the game, Machado was one for four, with the home run, and two strikeouts.
Sans Machado, the Orioles only had two hits. The hits came off the bats of Trey Mancini and JJ Hardy.
As he has all season, Chris Sale looked good
Sale, nicknamed “The Condor” based on his lanky 6’6 172-pound frame, entered the game 1-2 with a 1.19 ERA, and an amazing 52 strikeouts with only six walks in 37.2 innings pitched.
Through six innings, Sale had retired the O’s in order five times. After the Machado home run in the seventh, he got out of the inning with no other damage. Sale left after eight, giving up two runs, three hits and striking out eleven with two walks.
O’s fans will remember the Machado payback home run. Red Sox fans will remember the outing and win. RHP Craig Kimbrel pitched the ninth and recorded the save for Boston.
O’s bullpen struggles in the seventh, gets a triple play in the eighth
LHP Donnie Hart replaced Asher in the seventh and gave up singles to Sandy Leon – a former Washington National – and SS Xander Bogaerts, putting runners at first and third with one out. LF Andrew Benintendi reached on a fielder’s choice, the runner was out at home, and it was time for Mychal Givens. Givens didn’t get the job done as RF Mookie Betts doubled over the head of Adam Jones allowing two runs to score.
Zach Britton, fresh off the disabled list, came in for the eighth and Mitch Moreland greeted him with a single to left. Dustin Pedroia walked, putting two on base with no outs. CF Jackie Bradley, Jr., popped to JJ Hardy, when things got weird again.
Hardy missed the Bradley pop up in shallow left field, it did not look like an intentional miss, and the infield fly rule was not called. Jonathan Schoop got the ball from Hardy, tagged the lead base runner, stepped on second to get a force on Pedroia from first, and then threw the ball to first base to get Bradley, who never ran from home. Triple play. Those don’t happen everyday.
Pride for Lakeland Senior High School
Lakeland Senior High School, not surprisingly located in Lakeland, Florida, was the proving ground of Alec Asher and Chris Sale. The Dreadnaughts – per dictionary.com, “a type of battle ship armed with heavy-caliber guns in turrets, so called from the British battleship Dreadnought, launched in 1906, the first of its type” – saw Asher and Sale graduate from the school.
Former Orioles Steve Pierce and Boog Powell were also Dreadnaughts at one time. Who knew.
Rivalry growing and growing
During the game O’s radio Jim Hunter announcer asked, “When is enough enough?” Good question.
Looking back at the last few weeks, Manny Machado accidently spiked Dustin Pedroia at Camden Yards. Two days later, Red Sox P Matt Barnes – in one of the most spineless and pathetic moves on a baseball field ever – threw at Machado’s head, resulting in a four-game suspension.
Fast forward to yesterday, Dylan Bundy hit Mookie Betts and Adam Jones was verbally abused and had peanuts thrown at him. Tuesday, Sale threw behind Machado. The rivalry is back on.
Following the next two games in Boston, the O’s and Red Sox don’t meet again until June 1-4 at Camden Yards. Maybe by then all this nonsense will be over. Or maybe the Red Sox are still mad about the last game of the 2011 season?
Notes and Wednesday’s game
Zach Britton was reinstated before the game from the 10-day DL and has a streak of 54 saves in a row. This is the second longest streak in MLB history, behind Eric Gagne’s 84.
Wellington Castillo was placed on the 10-day DL before the game. His roster spot was taken by C Francisco Pena.
Entering Tuesday, Trey Mancini only had three hits in his last 29 at bats. Mancini was one for three on the night. For the season, he is hitting .222 with five home runs and 12 RBI.
Caleb Joseph’s streak of two games in a row with an RBI came to an end.
Attendance was 32,932 in Boston, and the game was a fast two hours and 33 minutes.
The Orioles play the Red Sox Wednesday at 7:10ET. RHP Kevin Gausman (1-2, 7.50) is scheduled to face LHP Drew Pomeranz (2-1, 4.15).