After perhaps the toughest loss of the still young season, the Baltimore Orioles were taxed with winning a game in Boston on Patriot’s Day in a quick turnaround. Needless to say, the odds were somewhat stacked against the O’s and starter Wei-Yin Chen. While Chen ended up with a high pitch count, he did pitch a good game and put his team in a position to win. Chen’s line: 5 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 BB, 5 K. The Orioles chased Boston starter Clay Buchholtz early – in the top of the third inning that is. Nick Markakis and Nelson Cruz netted RBI-singles in that inning, and the Birds had a 2-0 lead. Cruz would later score on Adam Jones‘ RBI-groundout, and Steve Clevenger and Jonathan Schoop would follow with RBI-doubles and singles respectively (chasing Buchholtz).
However the Orioles’ problem this entire series has been getting off to a quick start, and then in effect not being able to tack on runs in the middle and later innings. Boston pushed three runs
across on Chen in the fifth on Jackie Bradly Jr’s RBI-double, Brock Holt‘s sac fly-RBI, and Dustin Pedroia‘s RBI-double. In truth, you had to know that this wasn’t going to be easy. Boston is a team that feels it’s never out of it ever, but especially at Fenway Park. And especially on Patriot’s Day. Incidentally, while this year it was incredibly difficult given the fact that the teams played on Sunday night (chalk that up to poor scheduling on MLB’s part), the 11 AM Patriot’s Day starts is a great tradition for MLB, the Red Sox, and the city of Boston. As Buck Showalter said at the beginning of the weekend, the Orioles were honored to be a part of it (especially with the circumstances of this year’s game).
David Ross sent a solo homer over the Green Monster in the last of the seventh off of Zach Britton, which ended up being the first earned run Britton had surrendered this season. However if it wasn’t obvious before that the Orioles would have to play a full nine innings (and possibly then some), it was at that time. However the Birds ended up making perhaps the biggest offensive play of the day in the top of the eighth, when Ryan Flaherty dumped a bloop single in with Steve Clevenger on second base. That ended up being an all-important insurance run, as Mike Napoli countered with a solo homer in the last of the inning. However perhaps the biggest play on defense as well as overall was Boston making an unforced error on the base paths, one of which the Orioles took advantage. With one out Brian Matusz struck out Herrera, while Boggarts took off from second try to get to third. However he took off late, allowing Steve Clevenger to throw him out – ending the inning and the threat.
The O’s took a 7-5 lead to the last of the ninth, and with one down Brock Holt got aboard with an infield single. Dustin Pedroia barely missed a game-tying homer to left field, giving Boston runners at second and third with one down. Buck Showalter then made a tough decision, and one with which I totally agreed – he IBB’d David Ortiz, putting the winning run on base. That allowed the righty Tommy Hunter to pitch to the right-handed hitter Mike Napoli. While Napoli has a potent bat of his own, you have to like the match up more so than the one with Ortiz. Furthermore, it gave the Orioles a force at every base and the ability to end the game on a double-play. Napoli ended up grounding out to second, allowing a run to score but recording two outs. That brought Mike Carp to the plate, with Boston needing a base hit to win the game. However Carp grounded out to Chris Davis at first base, ending the game with an Oriole victory.
As many issues as the Birds had in this series, fans should remember that the two teams split the series (which is how most four-game sets end). The concern for the O’s has to be the number of bullpen relievers that were utilized over the weekend (five yesterday). However that’s something that has to be anticipated when you play at Fenway Park. The other issue of course is J.J. Hardy, who was out of today’s lineup with a hamstring injury. The O’s don’t have an MRI set up or anything of that nature, and Hardy is listed as day-to-day.
There is a hidden benefit to the 11 AM start; while they had a quick turnaround today from last night, playing so early in the day could end up acting like an extra off day for the O’s. Many NFL teams take this attitude with regard to Thursday night games in that while they have a very short week on the front end, the back end provides for a much longer week and it almost acts as a second bye week. The Orioles will open up a three-game set in Toronto tonight, with Miguel Gonzalez on the mound. He’ll be opposed by Toronto’s knuckleballer, R.A. Dickey. Gametime is set for just after 7 PM.