For the second game in a row, the Orioles pitching staff dominated the opposing offense. Pair that with a grand slam off the bat of Jonathan Villar and you have an 4-1 win for the O’s over the defending World Series champion Boston Red Sox.
Boston are thin in the starting rotation at the moment. Both David Price and Nathan Eovaldi are on the IL. So, they turned to longtime minor league hurler Josh A. Smith to eat a few innings at the beginning of this game. It did not go particularly well.
Jonathan Villar led off the bottom of the first inning and nearly gave the Orioles a quick 1-0 lead. On a 2-1 pitch, Villar lifted a fly ball to deep left field, where J.D. Martinez was spending a rare evening on defense. Both Martinez and an O’s fan sitting in the front row reached for the ball. The O’s fan got to it first, but did not make the catch, and the ball bounced back into play. Villar reached second base for what looked like a double at first blush. On replay, it was quite clear that the fan reached over the wall and impeded Martinez’s ability to make the catch. As a result, Villar was called out.
Luckily for Villar, he wouldn’t have to wait long for another chance to drive in runs.
Singles from Rio Ruiz and Stevie Wilkerson followed by a Chris Davis walked loaded the bases for the Orioles with no outs in the second inning. Then Pedro Severino and Richie Martin both went down on strikes to nearly snuff out the threat. But Villar would not be stopped. He crushed the first pitch he saw, a 78 mph curveball, into the center field bleachers beyond the reach of any Red Sox outfielder, this time for a grand slam.
The Orioles would not score again in this game, but an outstanding performance from starter John Means and the bullpen allowed the modest offense output to stand up against the streaking Red Sox.
Means did not allow a Boston runner past first base until Christian Vazquez led off the fifth inning with a double and then scored from third base on a sacrifice fly two batters later. The Baltimore pitching staff then allowed just one base runner (an error by Ruiz) for the remainder of the game. It was utter domination of a lineup full of capable hitters.
The Orioles southpaw looked to be in control throughout the night. Of the 21 outs Means was responsible for 11 were groundouts and four were strikeouts. The Red Sox offense struggled to make solid contact against the rookie all game.
They did not fare any better against Paul Fry, who faced only three batters and forced three weak grounders, including the Ruiz error, or Mychal Givens, who looked un-hittable. Givens began his outing with a strikeout of Mookie Betts to end the eighth inning and another K on Michael Chavis to end the game and earn his fourth save of the season.
As a unit, the Orioles pitchers allowed one run on three hits, six strikeouts and zero walks tonight. Going back to the loss to the Rays on Friday, the O’s hurlers have allowed one run over the last 21 innings. Who are these people?
Meanwhile, the Birds bats did not have the biggest game, but it proved to be enough to get the win. Ruiz and Wilkerson both had two hits. Severino’s double was the only extra base besides Villar’s long ball. Chris Davis reached base twice (single, walk). However, Martin’s struggles at the plate continued as he went 0-for-2.
If it weren’t for Means work on the mound, it’s possible the Orioles would have been kicking themselves for a few wasted opportunities in this game. They led off the fourth inning with two singles, but got nothing out of it. Severino’s double led off the seventh, but his teammates could not bring him home. And a Steve Pearce diving play in the eighth inning cut down a runner at the plate to end that threat.
But alas, we do not live in that alternative universe. Means was great on the mound. The more outings that go by, the more his performance looks less like a mirage and more like the real deal. Perhaps he is the first real piece to emerge and become an important part of the next competitive Orioles team. Perhaps not. Either way, it’s a lot of fun to watch him baffle Red Sox hitters.
The O’s and Sox will do it all over again on Tuesday night. David Hess (1-4, 5.34 ERA) starts for the good guys and will be opposed by righty Hector Velazquez (0-2, 3.72 ERA). First pitch is 7:05 from Camden Yards.
Who was the Most Birdland Player for Monday, May 6, 2019?
This poll is closed
Jonathan Villar (A grand freakin’ slam!)
John Means (W, 7 IP, 1 R, 3 H, 4 SO, 0 BB)
Mychal Givens (S, 1.1 IP, 0 R, 0 H, 2 SO, 0 BB)