So, I want to offer a quick word to all the Mariners and Blue Jays fans who were scoreboard-watching tonight’s O’s game, hoping they could take the Red Sox down a peg:
Yeah, uh, sorry, guys. Welcome to Orioles baseball.
Hey, the Birds already did a solid for those trailing Wild Card teams by beating Boston a night earlier. That’s about the best we can offer. There was almost no chance that lightning was going to strike twice for the now 51-107 Orioles, and indeed, it didn’t. Tonight’s contest played out just as so many of the 2021 Birds’ previous games have: with the club simply too overmatched to put up a competitive effort against a far superior team. The result was a 6-0 blanking that helped the Red Sox retain their slim hold on the second AL Wild Card spot.
Zac Lowther’s outing tonight was easily the best of his three starts this year against the Red Sox, which admittedly wasn’t a high bar to clear, considering he gave up seven runs in one of them and was chased in the fourth inning of the other. This time he lasted into the sixth and held the Sox to just one earned run despite eight hits. Limiting the damage, as they say.
Lowther got off to a good start by inducing three ground balls in the first, the first of which was booted by Richie Martin and the third of which the O’s shortstop turned into a double play. No harm, no foul, Richie. Lowther’s only big mistake came in the second inning, when J.D. Martinez jumped on a fat changeup in the middle of the strike zone and pounded it 444 feet to center for a solo home run.
That was all Nathan Eovaldi needed. The veteran Sox righty chewed up a punchless Orioles lineup that, on a regular basis, features at least four players with an OPS below .600. Eovaldi struck out five of the first seven batters he faced, and though the O’s managed a couple of doubles against him, they didn’t amass more than one baserunner at a time for the first five innings.
Meanwhile, Lowther kept the Red Sox off the scoreboard for a three-inning span, though it required a bit of a high-wire act amidst Boston’s constant traffic on the basepaths. In both the third inning and the fifth, the Sox led off the frame with consecutive singles, putting two on with none out. In both cases, Lowther buckled down and doused any potential rallies. The third-inning threat was quashed when third baseman Kelvin Gutierrez speared Hunter Renfroe’s screaming liner and doubled off the runner at second. Lowther’s fifth-inning escape involved another double play, this one a grounder to Gutierrez who stepped on third and threw to first, followed by a Renfroe flyout. Had the Red Sox gone on to lose this game, they would have been kicking themselves over not capitalizing on their early scoring opportunities.
The Sox did finally find some clutch hits in the sixth. Lowther exited the game after allowing a leadoff single to Rafael Devers, and the O’s bullpen and defense conspired to allow his inherited runner to score. The normally sure-handed Gutierrez pulled the Roger Dorn “olé” BS on a Xander Bogaerts grounder, trying to backhand it instead of getting in front of the ball, and it kicked off his glove into shallow left for a two-base error. Martinez brought home both runners with a double off reliever Eric Hanhold, extending the lead to 3-0.
Would this game play out like Tuesday’s, where the O’s fell into a multi-run deficit against a seemingly dominant pitcher, only to battle back and take the lead? In a word: nope. Eovaldi was simply too good, and the O’s lineup too full of easy outs, for the Birds to make any noise offensively. Eovaldi wrapped up his evening by escaping a sixth-inning jam, this time against the heart of the lineup. After a Cedric Mullins double and Ryan Mountcastle walk brought the potential tying run to the plate, Eovaldi retired Austin Hays, Trey Mancini, and Pedro Severino in succession to close out his six scoreless innings of work.
With the Orioles fading fast, Brandon Hyde let some of his lesser-used relievers eat up innings the rest of the game, with varying results. Brooks Kriske worked a perfect seventh, but Konner Wade allowed two runs in the eighth on an Alex Verdugo single, and Spenser Watkins served up a Renfroe homer in the ninth to make it 6-0. The game would end by that score, as three Sox relievers held the O’s hitless the rest of the way.
Again...sorry, M’s and Jays. You’d better take care of your own business, because you aren’t getting any help from the Orioles tonight. And I wouldn’t count on it tomorrow night, either.