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Orioles bullpen melts down as Red Sox complete sweep, 8-6

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The Birds rallied back from an early 4-0 deficit to take a dramatic late-inning lead, only to immediately blow it. So it goes for the 2021 O’s.

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Boston Red Sox Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

This — this, right here — is why the Orioles can’t have nice things.

In the top of the seventh inning at Fenway Park this afternoon, the O’s were on the cusp of a feel-good, come-from-behind victory against the Red Sox. The Birds, who’d been trailing all afternoon, by a margin of four runs at one point, had just completed a stirring comeback, thanks to Trey Mancini’s bases-loaded, go-ahead double. The O’s had a chance to avoid a three-game sweep and put a dent in Boston’s postseason aspirations. They were nine outs away from one of their most thrilling victories of the year.

Spoiler alert: they got one of those nine outs. And then it all went hopelessly wrong again. When the dust settled, the Orioles were 8-6 losers, swept away by a Red Sox team that strengthened its hold on the top AL Wild Card spot.

Of course that’s what happened. This team isn’t 47-102 by accident, folks. They’re bad at everything, and no iota of success or good will can last for more than, like, five minutes.

After Mancini’s big hit put the Birds ahead, 6-5, Conner Greene was the first to try, and fail, to protect the lead in the bottom of the seventh. With one out, former Oriole Jose Iglesias crushed a shot high off the Green Monster, inches away from a homer, and cruised in for a double. Enrique Hernandez then lashed a single up the middle that deflected off second base into shallow center, plating Iglesias with the tying run. Welp.

The Sox wasted no time regaining the lead, as Hunter Renfroe blistered a towering shot that also banged off the Monster, bringing home Hernandez to put Boston in front, 7-6. Brandon Hyde, like most of us, had seen enough of Conner Greene at that point, pulling him for Cole Sulser, who probably should’ve just started the inning to begin with. Sulser was not particularly effective either, lasting just the three-batter minimum — in which he gave up a Rafael Devers RBI single and a walk — before Hyde turned to the third pitcher of the inning, Dillon Tate, who got the final out at last. But the Red Sox were back in control, 8-6, and there would be no more O’s comebacks.

Early in the game, it seemed like the Orioles would be buried early. Rookie starter Alexander Wells immediately loaded the bases in the first on a walk and two singles. After fanning Xander Bogaerts, Wells got an enormous gift from home plate umpire Doug Eddings, who rang up J.D. Martinez on a 2-2 pitch that was roughly a foot outside. No matter. Wells squandered the break by plunking Bobby Dalbec on the next pitch, forcing home the game’s first run. Kevin Plawecki followed with a sharp single to right that plated two more, though Dalbec was thrown out at third to end the inning. So Wells got only one “legitimate” out in that inning. Not great! In the second, an Enrique Hernandez RBI double made it 4-0.

An Orioles third-inning rally made it a closer game. Cedric Mullins, as he so often does, lit the spark. His one-out single off Nathan Eovaldi preceded a Ryan Mountcastle walk, and Anthony Santander ripped a double to left to plate Mullins. After Trey Mancini grounded out, Austin Hays picked him up by poking a two-out, two-strike single up the middle to plate a pair. The Orioles had cut the deficit to one, 4-3.

Meanwhile, Wells settled down a bit. Over his final three innings, the Aussie southpaw retired nine of the 10 batters he faced, with a Martinez third-inning homer his only blemish. It was a night-and-day difference from his first inning — Wells was throwing strikes, changing speeds, and inducing some weak contact. He departed after the fifth inning, giving up five runs and six hits while striking out three. Not a stellar outing by any means, but at least he finished strong.

Eric Hanhold han-held the line for the sixth inning, allowing the Orioles to rally back in the seventh. Mullins — who else? — started the rally again, drawing a leadoff walk from Garrett Whitlock, who had thrown a scoreless sixth. Boston manager Alex Cora went to his bullpen for Hirokazu Sawamura, who couldn’t find the strike zone, throwing his first seven pitches for balls and walking both Mountcastle and Santander. That set up Mancini. He smoked a liner down the left-field foul line that rattled around in the corner, plated all three runners, and turned a two-run O’s deficit into a one-run lead. Mancini was thrown out trying to get to third on the play, which isn’t ideal, but hey, what a hit! A bases-clearing, go-ahead double! Why, that’s one of the biggest O’s hits of the year...

...or at least it would have been, had the Orioles’ bullpen not melted down in the seventh. Instead, it became merely a footnote, another all-too-fleeting flash of positivity amidst a season full of overwhelming gloom.