Hey, do you all remember the last time before tonight that the Orioles played at Fenway Park? It was the opening series of the 2021 season, and the Birds went in and swept the Red Sox in three straight. There was excitement in Birdland. There was doom and gloom in Beantown. It was wonderful. Things seemed so...promising.
Fast forward a little over four months, and the Orioles have gone 35-76 since they last left Boston. The Red Sox have gone 67-48. Safe to say each team has found its own level after that first series threw things for a loop. And tonight the Red Sox left no doubt that they’re the vastly superior team, delivering a decisive beatdown of the battered, bruised Birds, who lost their ninth straight game.
If you’re looking for the most notable highlight of this game for the Orioles, it happened on the very first play, when Cedric Mullins roped a single to right field. That not only extended Cedric’s AL-leading hit total to 139, but also stretched his hitting streak to 20 in a row, the longest by an Oriole since Adam Jones in 2012.
What a streak. What a player. Bravo, Cedric Mullins.
Good night, everyone.
(being handed a note from off-screen)
Ah. I see. I’m being told that I should talk about the rest of the game, too. Ugh, fine.
It was immediately clear this game wouldn’t go the Orioles’ way when Mullins, despite advancing to second with nobody out, was left stranded in the first inning. That made the Orioles 0-for-26 with runners in scoring position over their last four games. Horrific.
The Red Sox, by contrast, showed the Orioles how it’s supposed to be done, teeing off on starter Spenser Watkins in the second inning. They quickly loaded the bases on two singles and a walk, and as Watkins continued to fall behind in the count to every batter, he was forced to leave hittable pitches in the strike zone lest he walk in a run. Jarren Duran jumped on one such pitch and laced it to center to score a run; Bobby Dalbec followed with a double off the Green Monster that brought home two more. An Enrique Hernandez sac fly made it a 4-0 game before Watkins finally escaped the inning, eight batters and 26 pitches after it began.
Things didn’t get any better in the third. Watkins appeared on his way to a quick inning, setting down the first two batters, before getting himself into trouble again with a pair of walks, followed by a Duran RBI single. Watkins hung around for one more inning, long enough to give up a Xander Bogaerts home run, before his night was finished.
Watkins was tagged for six runs, seven hits, and three walks in four innings. The bloom is certainly coming off the rose of the one-time Cinderella story, if I may badly mix metaphors. In his first three big league starts, Watkins allowed just one run apiece. In the four starts since, he’s given up four or more. He’s becoming a true Oriole right before our eyes!
Meanwhile, Orioles hitters found a solution to their RISP problem: you can’t strand runners in scoring position if you never get runners into scoring position. Brilliant! Sox starter Nick Pivetta mostly dominated them for six innings; the only run he allowed was a fluky one, on a Richie Martin 320-foot fly ball that somehow snuck inside the Pesky Pole in right field for a home run. That was the cheapest home run you’ll ever see, but hey, the Red Sox have nobody but their own ballpark to blame. (And it basically canceled out a DJ Stewart long fly ball in the fourth that would have been a home run in 29 out of 30 MLB ballparks, but in Fenway was grabbed above the wall by right fielder Hunter Renfroe.) The Orioles didn’t get another runner to second base until the sixth, when he was of course stranded on a pair of strikeouts.
The Orioles never felt like they were in this thing, so basically it was a typical Orioles game. Relievers Dusten Knight and Cesar Valdez each coughed up a home run — to Dalbec and Renfroe, respectively — while the O’s offense went down quietly against the Red Sox bullpen. They got one more at-bat with men in scoring position, putting runners at second and third in the ninth, only for Richie Martin to strike out to end the game.
The final was 8-1, as an end to the losing skid falls further and further out of the Orioles’ reach. I suppose they won’t lose every game for the rest of the season, but they sure can try.
Good night, everyone. For real this time.