Last night was definitely Ubaldo Jimenez‘s best start as a member of the Baltimore Orioles. Jimenez’s line: 5.1 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 BB, 5 K. Before the game Boston honored the victims and first responders from last year’s Boston Marathon Bombing with an emotional ceremony. Combine that with the fact that the game was on Sunday Night Baseball, and you almost felt like the Orioles were supposed to roll over in this game – but Jimenez and his teammates had other ideas. The Birds got out to an early lead, as Nelson Cruz hit the first pitch he saw over the Green Monster. Following a Chris Davis walk and an Adam Jones base hit, Matt Wieters sent an RBI-single into right field to score Davis and give the O’s a 2-0 lead. Jones would later score on a sac fly-RBI by J.J. Hardy, and the Birds had spotted Jimenez three runs before he even took the field.
Jimenez struggled a bit in the last of the first, in terms of pitch count that is. However he settled down very nicely after that and started mowing Boston batters down left and right. It got to the point to where routine fly balls off of Boston hitters were being cheered at first as if they were home runs. With two men on in the fifth David Lough hit an RBI-double to put the Birds ahead 4-0. An inning later Boston starter Jake Peavy intentionally walked Chris Davis to get to Adam Jones, and he was made to pay for that as Jones lined an RBI-single to left field which scored Ryan Flaherty and gave the O’s a 5-0 lead.
As good as Jimenez was, he started to tire at around the 95 pitch mark. With one out in the last of the sixth David Ortiz lined a single and Mike Napoli drew a walk. However Johnny Gomes put Boston back in the game with his three-run homer over the Green Monster, and the Birds’ lead was down to 5-3. But that’s not where it ended; following a Holt single in the seventh with one down, Grady Sizemore hit a comebacker back to pitcher Zach Britton. When Britton threw to second to start the double-play, Ryan Flaherty bobbled the ball while transferring it to his throwing hand – and the runner was ruled safe.
According to the new rules governing replay, transfers, and the old “neighborhood play,” that
play was called correctly. However as ESPN’s John Kruk pointed out during the broadcast, a catch is a catch. Granted Flaherty has to hold onto the ball and complete the play. However there’s no question that according to all rules EXCEPT the one that really matters, Flaherty caught the ball. Boston would get to within 5-4 on a subsequent David Ortiz RBI-single, and they would tie it on a bizzare play in which Mike Napoli bounched to Jonathan Schoop at third. The infield was back, however Schoop went home with the throw and the runner was safe. That’s a bar error on Schoop’s part, however fans should keep in mind that third base is not his natural spot, and he’s young. Chalk it up to growing pains.
Adam Jones led off the ninth inning with a double, and moved to third on Matt Wieters’ ground out. However the O’s came away with no runs in the inning due to a Lombardozzi ground out and David Lough striking out. Dustin Pedroia came up in the last of the ninth and almost homered over the wall in left – if not for a fan interfering with the ball. Brian Matusz proceeded to throw a wild pitch that Matt Wieters lost behind the plate, sending Pedroia to third. David Ortiz was intentionally walked and Darren O’Day (who had come into pitch) hit Mike Napoli square on the kneecap.
The advantage for the Orioles was that they had a force out at every base. Boston pinch hit Mike Carp for Johnny Gomes, and Carp lined a ball towards left that was caught on the fly by David Lough. However the ball probably wasn’t deep enough for the runner at third (Dustin Pedroia) to tag up – yet Lough came up throwing. In retrospect that was probably a mistake, because Pedroia only feinted going home; unfortunately Lough sailed the throw, and Pedroia scored giving Boston a 6-5 win.
There’s no one person or one thing that’s to blame for losing this game. Keep in mind also that a 5-0 lead is far from safe in a yard like Fenway. The transfer play at second base in the seventh inning certainly didn’t help, and neither did Schoop’s error at third base. In effect, Boston caught most of the breaks in last night’s game. That sounds very simplistic, but it’s a fact. Having said that, Ryan Flaherty needs to secure the ball on double-plays, and Jonathan Schoop needs to recognize that when he’s positioned back the ball shouldn’t go home. And furthermore on Lough’s errant throw Schoop made next-to-no effort to cut off the ball. However he probably wasn’t looking for a throw to be coming; so pick your poison.
The O’s will need to rebound very quickly, as they play in just a few hours at 11 AM this morning. Wei-Yin Chen will get the ball in the series finale for the O’s, and he’ll be opposed by Boston’s Clay Buchholtz. J.J. Hardy also exited last night’s game in the seventh inning due to tightness in his hamstring. He’s listed as day-to-day.