Tuesday night the Orioles proved that almost no lead is safe against this team. Almost. After falling behind 7-0, the Orioles mounted a spirited comeback in the 9th inning, but ultimately fell short in an 8-6 loss to the Red Sox.
Trailing 8-1 entering the 9th, Gunnar Henderson led off the inning with an opposite-field HR into the Orioles’ bullpen. Ramón Urías and Terrin Vavra each singled on either side of an Adam Frazier flyout, giving the O’s two on and one out. Jorge Mateo then hit a ball back up the middle that was knocked down by Boston pitcher Kaleb Ort. However, instead of immediately taking the out at second, Ort hesitated and his throw pulled Enmanuel Valdez off the bag, leaving Baltimore with the bases loaded.
That brought up Cedric Mullins with a chance to bring the Orioles within two runs. After falling behind 1-2, Mullins lifted a knee-high fastball into right field. The ball had just enough on it to sneak over the right-field scoreboard, giving Mullins a grand slam and cutting the deficit to 8-6.
This late rally forced the Red Sox to bring in closer Kenley Jansen. Adley Rutschman battled against Jansen but was ultimately retired on a hard-hit ball up the middle to a perfectly positioned shortstop. With two outs, Anthony Santander laced a ball into right field, but right at Alex Verdugo—ending the rally and sealing a Boston win.
The Orioles found themselves in this hole because of the struggles of starter Kyle Bradish. For Bradish, things seemed off from the very first inning on. After striking out Verdugo to begin the game, he walked Rafael Dever on four pitches. He then worked the count full against Justin Turner, only to lose him to a walk. Bradish was able to work out of the early jam, getting cleanup hitter Masataka Yoshida to ground into a double play.
However, the next couple of innings wouldn’t end so fortunately for the O’s. With one down in the second, Boston first baseman Triston Casas worked an 11-pitch walk against Bradish. Centerfielder Jarren Duran then doubled into the right field corner to give the Red Sox second and third with one out. Second baseman Christian Arroyo then singled into right, plating Casas to give Boston a 1-0 lead.
The Red Sox would put up two more runs in the 2nd inning. With runners at first and third, catcher Reese McGuire lined a single under the glove of Gunnar Henderson at third to drive in Duran. Alex Verdugo then rocketed a single into right field to load the bases before Rafael Devers hit a sac fly into center to make it 3-0.
When Bradish finally got out of the second inning, he had thrown 40 pitches in that frame alone. A big problem for Bradish in his brief outing was his inability to locate his fastball. After two innings, 14 of the 23 fastballs Bradish threw ended up out of the strike zone. It took 56 pitches for Bradish to get through the first two innings and at no time did he look in control of his considerable stuff.
The 3rd inning saw things go from bad to worse for Bradish and the Orioles. Yoshida hit another seeing-eye-single past the glove of Henderson to lead off the inning. Kiké Hernández rocketed the very next pitch to LF for a single and Casas followed that with a single to right to again load the bases. Boston may have only gotten one run out of a bases-loaded situation in the 2nd, but they got all four in the 3rd. Duran sent a 3-2 fastball from Bradish over 400 feet into CF for a grand slam, giving the Red Sox a 7-0 lead.
Bradish would last two more batters before giving way to Mike Baumann. It’d be easy to characterize this outing as another bad Bradish start against Boston. After all, the second-year righty came into this start with a 7.54 ERA in five appearances against the Red Sox. However, much of those struggles came in Fenway Park, as Bradish actually had an ERA under 3.00 against Boston in Camden Yards. That trend didn’t continue Tuesday night and Bradish’s put the Orioles in a hole they couldn’t find their way out of.
Prior to the ninth inning, the Orioles continued to show the inconsistencies that have bothered them throughout the last 10 days. Through the first eight innings, the Orioles only had one inning where they strung together multiple hits. Adley Rutschman led off the 4th inning with a single to RF, and Gunnar Henderson would later single to right to give the Orioles two on and two out. Ramón Urías couldn’t capitalize on the opportunity though, flying out to center to end the inning.
Jorge Mateo got the Orioles on the board in the 5th inning with a solo HR. Red Sox starter Corey Kluber left a sinker in the middle of the plate and Mateo launched it into the Orioles bullpen to make it 7-1.
Kluber consistently gave up contact to the O’s—even some hard contact—but more often than not, the ball was hit right at a Boston fielder. The two-time Cy Young winner had struggled in his first four starts this season, including the season opener against Baltimore. However, you never would have known it Tuesday, as Kluber worked through six easy innings, giving up four singles and the Mateo HR while also striking out three.
The loss breaks up the Orioles' seven-game winning streak that dated back to their series in Chicago. The O’s also now sit at 2-3 on the season against Boston, giving up an average of 7.8 runs per game. Baltimore will look to begin a new winning streak—and take the series from the Red Sox—when they play tomorrow at 1:05 pm. Until then, we’ll just have to imagine the comeback that could have been—but wasn’t.