Imagine an alternate universe where the 2022 Orioles had been just as bad as all the preseason pundits predicted. A chilling scenario in which the O’s never rattled off a 10-game winning streak, or three straight winning months, or shocked the baseball world with their spunky play and knack for drama and chaos. That woeful, imaginary version of the Orioles might have played a lot of games that, well, resembled tonight’s 13-9 defeat at the hands of the Red Sox.
What was the worst part of this game for you? Was it the inning where the Orioles gave up runs on, among other things, two bases-loaded walks and a bases-loaded hit by pitch? Or was it the inning where they gave up runs on two errors and, yes, another bases-loaded hit by pitch? Was it the inning where Kyle Bradish had to throw 36 pitches and it was still only the Red Sox’ third highest-scoring inning of the game? Or was it the part where you looked at the clock and realized it took two and a half hours to play four innings? This game was a rich tapestry of utter misery.
The painful night began with an utter dud of an outing by Bradish, who followed up the best start of his major league career — his 8.2 scoreless inning masterpiece against the Astros — with perhaps his worst. Bradish’s velocity was down a tick from last week, but more distressingly, he simply had no idea where the ball was going from the get-go. Bradish managed to negotiate a scoreless first inning but had to throw 24 pitches to do so, falling behind three of the four batters he faced. It only got worse.
In the second, J.D. Martinez greeted Bradish with a leadoff single, and rookie Triston Casas blasted an opposite-field home run over the Green Monster in left, giving the Red Sox the lead. The rest of the inning was a harbinger of things to come, featuring a Gunnar Henderson error and a strikeout-wild pitch that allowed a runner to reach. Bradish ultimately stranded the bases loaded to avoid further damage, but with 36 pitches in the inning, he was up to 60 after just two frames.
On a brighter note, the Orioles’ offense once again brought its A-game to Fenway, one night after putting a 14-spot on the board. Back-to-back extra-base hits in the first by Anthony Santander and Ryan Mountcastle plated the Birds’ first run, and though the O’s squandered a leadoff triple in the second, they jumped back into the lead in the third. Red Sox starter Michael Wacha, who had allowed just one home run to a lefty on his changeup all season long, coughed up two of them to consecutive batters. First, Adley Rutschman pulled a drive just inside the right-field foul pole, and the scorching Santander followed with a blast into the bullpens. The Orioles were back ahead, 3-2.
Maybe regaining the lead would help Kyle Bradish settle down and throw strikes aaaaaaaaaaand...he immediately self-destructed in the bottom of the third. After Alex Verdugo smacked his first pitch for a double off the Monster, Bradish couldn’t find the strike zone to save his life, throwing 10 of his next 13 pitches off the plate for two walks and a hit batsman that forced home a run. Bradish recorded only one more out, a force at the plate, before a bases-loaded walk to Connor Wong brought in another run and Brandon Hyde to the mound. Woof, Kyle just did not have it tonight.
It’s here I should point out that the Orioles elected not to add a fresh reliever prior to this game, despite the bullpen having to cover seven innings after a rain delay Monday night and the O’s using six relievers apiece in the two games before that. Perhaps the O’s were betting the house that Bradish would pitch deep into the game, not an unreasonable hope based on his stellar pitching of late. But their gamble backfired in a big way, throwing the Birds’ bullpen into chaos tonight. And not the good kind of chaos.
Hyde first turned to Joey Krehbiel, who pitched in two of the previous three games (and not particularly well). Trusting Krehbiel with a bases-loaded situation seemed like a disaster waiting to happen, and indeed it turned out to be, though the O’s didn’t have a lot of good options. Tommy Pham greeted him with a single to center field to plate two, and Cedric Mullins inexplicably tried to throw out the runner at third, allowing Pham to take second base. That convinced Hyde to intentionally walk Rafael Devers to re-load the bases, only for Krehbiel to walk Xander Bogaerts to force home another run. Verdugo, batting for the second time in the inning, finished the six-run frame with a sac fly, making it an 8-3 game.
Then, for one glorious half-inning, this otherwise torturous ballgame took an awesome turn, as the O’s pulled off a stupendous rally in the fourth to erase the entire deficit. Ramón Urías led off with a booming home run against Wacha, his 16th of the year, and Rougned Odor followed with a single. Austin Hays then lashed a shot off the Monster for an RBI triple, the Birds’ third three-bagger of the game.
Sox manager Alex Cora pulled the ineffective Wacha after 3.1 innings, but reliever Matt Strahm was no better, promptly serving up a Mullins RBI single to cut the gap to 8-6. Santander took care of the rest. The Birds left fielder walloped a no-doubter two-run homer into the Monster seats, his second dinger of the game, knotting the game at 8-8.
How hot is Anthony right now? He’s hit multiple home runs in three of his last four games. This was also the fourth time this year he’s homered from both sides of the plate in the same game. He’s only the second player in MLB history to do so four times in a season (joining the Padres’ Ken Caminiti in 1996).
What a comeback! Brand new ballgame! Maybe now the Orioles’ pitchers can buckle down and get some outs aaaaaaaaand...they immediately coughed up five runs of their own in the bottom of the fourth. Oh, come on! It was an absolute travesty of an inning that featured three pitchers, two of whom — Krehbiel and Jake Reed — didn’t get anybody out. It also featured not one but two errors by Odor at second base, who’s been having an atrocious defensive series in Boston so far. And of course, it featured another bases-loaded hit-by-pitch (this time by Reed, on Pham) that scored a run. When the dust settled, the Orioles were in a huge hole again, 13-8.
“That is the end of the fourth inning. Let us never speak of it again,” intoned MASN announcer Kevin Brown. Oops! Sorry, Kevin. But technically I didn’t speak of it, I only wrote of it. It was now 9:35 after four innings of a game that had begun at 7:10. What a mess.
Thankfully, the game slightly picked up the pace from there, with only one run scored for either team in the final four and a half innings (that on an Odor RBI single in the seventh to plate Jorge Mateo, whose double was the Orioles’ ninth extra-base hit of the game). The O’s patchwork bullpen managed to keep it together after the fourth, with DL Hall, Bryan Baker, Cionel Perez, and Dillon Tate combining for five scoreless innings. The Orioles are going to have to make a bullpen roster move or two tomorrow, one would think.
The O’s had one more chance at a miraculous rally in the ninth, loading the bases against Matt Barnes to bring up Hays as the potential tying run. But Austin grounded to short for a game-ending double play, putting this debacle of a game to bed.
Adding to the misery, the Orioles may have lost Ramón Urías for the season after he limped off the field in the fifth in obvious pain. Urías had only just returned to the lineup after missing the last two games with neck/shoulder spasms.
It was that kind of night, folks. Let’s just be glad that this kind of game is the exception, rather than the rule, for the 2022 Orioles.