For the second straight day to begin the 2021 season, the Orioles pitching staff quieted the Boston bats while the team’s offense did just enough to get them into the win column.
The biggest concern for the Orioles entering the year was, understandably, their starting rotation. But you wouldn’t know that based on the first two games of this series in Boston.
Matt Harvey followed up John Means’s dominant Opening Day performance with a solid outing of his own. Over 4.2 innings, the Dark Knight worked around six hits and a walk to allow just two runs and strike out four batters.
It was not the cleanest of starts; Harvey had just one inning without a baserunner. But he battled, showed good velocity (fastball topped out at 94.8 mph) and largely stayed out of any serious trouble, especially the first time through the Red Sox order.
The first sign of trouble for Harvey came in the fourth inning, when J.D. Martinez led off with a single, moved to second on a Xander Bogarts base hit, scooted to third on a Rafael Devers ground out, and then came home on a Marwin Gonzalez sacrifice fly. It could have been worse, but the O’s starter struck out rookie Bobby Dalbec to end the inning and limit the damage.
Somewhat surprisingly, Harvey returned to the mound in the bottom of the fifth inning. A walk to Kevin Plawecki and a four-pitch walk to Kiké Hernández put Harvey into a bit of a bind. That is the moment in which he probably should have been removed from the game. But Brandon Hyde stuck with the righty to face Martinez a third time, which would prove to be a poor decision. Martinez hit a ball right back up the middle and it bounced off of Harvey, scoring Plawecki and knocking Harvey out of the game.
In stepped the newest Oriole, Adam Plutko, to face Bogaerts with two runs and two runners on base—not the easiest test. But the former Cleveland pitcher passed with flying colors, inducing a ground ball and get the O’s back in the dugout.
Meanwhile, the Baltimore bats had some difficulty with Boston’s rookie starter Tanner Houck. The righty held them scoreless through three innings, striking out six in the process. But the second time through the order proved more difficult.
A Rio Ruiz walk started a two-out rally in the fourth inning. Austin Hays followed with what was ruled an infield hit, but what really happened was Red Sox third baseman Rafael Devers fielded a ground ball cleanly with an awkward dive and then launched the ensuing throw into right field, giving the O’s runners on second and third for Maikel Franco. Franco’s base hit up the middle plated two runs.
"Is my Maik on?" pic.twitter.com/3gbJETgybf— Baltimore Orioles (@Orioles) April 3, 2021
The O’s extended their lead in the fifth inning with an Anthony Santander single to score Pedro Severino, who had kicked off the frame with a double to left field. An insurance run in the seventh inning came via a Trey Mancini sacrifice fly to score Freddy Galvis and give us our final scoreline of 4-2.
It was an outstanding performance from the Orioles bullpen that enabled the four runs to stand up. Plutko not only wrapped up a dicey fifth inning but then also provided two additional shutout innings to bridge the precarious gap between the starter and the back-end of the O’s relief corps.
Dillon Tate was next out of the ‘pen, and he simply did his job; a shutout inning with one strikeout. And then he handed the ball to César Valdez, who had pitched on Opening Day and was then expected to be unavailable today. Instead, he was given his second save opportunity of the season.
It was not the easiest of outings, but Valdez got there in the end. He hit the first batter of the inning, Gonzalez, on the foot, and then walked Dalbec. But a mound visit seemed to fix something as he followed that with a strikeout of Franchy Cordero and two quick outs from Christian Vázquez and Hernández. Had it all the way!
Sure, it might be cold in Boston this weekend, and that’s probably making things a bit easier on the pitching staff. But the O’s hurlers have still out-dueled the Red Sox staff in the first two games of this series. It would end up as a pretty happy season if that becomes a regular happening.
Your undefeated Orioles will now go for the sweep on Sunday at Fenway Park. Bruce Zimmermann takes the hill for the O’s, and he will be opposed by Garrett Richards. First pitch is 1:10 p.m.
Who was the Most Birdland Player for Saturday, April 3, 2021?
This poll is closed
Matt Harvey (4.2 IP, 2 R, 6 H, 1 BB, 4 SO)
Adam Plutko (Win, 2.1 IP, 0 R, 1 H, 2 SO)
Maikel Franco (1-for-4, 2 RBI)
César Valdez (Save on back-to-back days)