By MyFM's Jake Archer - The Red Sox came rolling off of the wild and emotional series with the Yankees and welcomed the Baltimore Orioles in for a four-game set starting on Friday. The Orioles have kind of seen their window to contend close on them and now sit in a weird position where they will probably have to tear their team down and start again. This doesn't make anyone from Boston upset, because the Orioles have been a pain in the butt for a while now and have been somewhat of a rival to the Sox in terms of having bad blood. It wasn't entirely clear how this series would turn out, but Boston ended up starting it off hot on Friday night.
The Sox sent Eduardo Rodriguez to the mound for his second start of the year, and they were hoping he could be a little bit more consistent and economical out there. The Orioles countered with Chris Tillman, who is off to a rough start and also needed to go deeper into the game for them. When E-Rod gave up a first inning run on two hits and an Adam Jones sac-fly, I can't say I was feeling great about his outlook for the start. Luckily, Tillman fared even worse in the bottom half of the first as he got beat up by the Sox for four runs.
After a leadoff walk to Mookie Betts, a groundout by Andrew Benintendi and a single by Mitch Moreland, JD Martinez hit a one-out sac-fly to score Betts. The next batter, Rafael Devers, doubled to left to put two runners in scoring position. It was 1-1 but at that point, Tillman had already lost it. He gave up a three-run moonshot to Eduardo Nunez and the Sox had a 4-1 lead.
In the second, Rodriguez struck out the side, which was obviously encouraging. The inning didn't go so well for Tillman, who allowed back to back doubles to Tzu-Wei Lin and Mookie Betts to bring home another run. The big righty escaped the inning, but his leash was getting short. After Rodriguez came through the third, Tillman was back out on the mound in the bottom half. He started the inning by giving up singles to Devers and Nunez and then drilling Jackie Bradley Jr. with a pitch. The guy just had nothing, and after 57 pitches, Buck Showalter had seen enough. The Baltimore skipper turned to the bullpen and brought in Pedro Araujo. With Christian Vazquez at the plate, Baltimore's catcher Caleb Joseph allowed a passed ball and Devers scampered home to make it 6-1. The book was closed on Tillman, and in two innings he gave up six runs on seven hits and two walks. Not great, I'd say.
Meanwhile, Rodriguez had settled in pretty well and was holding the Orioles offense down. The fourth and the fifth were scoreless on both sides, but Boston would add another run in the sixth. Mike Wright Jr. was on the bump for Baltimore and he unleashed a wild pitch with two outs and runners on second and third. Moreland, the runner on third, scored and made it 7-1. In the seventh, Alex Cora opted to take Rodriguez out and bring in Heath Hembree. He had pitched well, and went deeper into the game, but still ended up at 104 pitches through six innings. That still has to improve. E-Rod's final line was six innings pitched, five hits, one run, two walks and eight strikeouts. It's better, but there's a lot more to expect from the young lefty.
Anyway, Hembree still can't seem to figure it out on the mound. He came in and allowed two runs on a Manny Machado double to bring in Craig Gentry and Trey Mancini. Luckily, that was all the damage that he created and the rest of the bullpen held Baltimore down for a 7-3 victory. Speaking of the rest of the bullpen, Joe Kelly came on in the eighth to a standing ovation from the crowd. He's become a fan favorite after his brawl with the Yankees on Wednesday and I think that's boosted his confidence on the mound as well. I'm excited to see what a confident Joe Kelly looks like.
Rodriguez earned the win on Friday night while Tillman was slapped with the loss. Boston improved to 11-2 and dropped Baltimore to 5-9. They'd meet up again the next day at 1:05 p.m. The starters in this contest were Hector Velazquez for Boston and Alex Cobb for Baltimore. It would be Cobb's first start with Baltimore after spending the last six years with another American League East team, the Rays. He did not do well.
In the first, the Sox jumped all over Baltimore early for the second straight game. Betts led off with a walk and then scored on a double by Benintendi. However, there was a play at the plate and Mookie collided awkwardly with the catcher, Chance Sisco. His ankle seemed to get crunched a bit on the slide and though he was safe, this was a tough play to watch. Hanley Ramirez was returning to the lineup off of a one game absence after being hit in the wrist by a pitch from the Yankees' Sonny Gray. Anytime a wrist injury occurs, it's really easy to worry about how that will effect a hitter. Hanley had been the Sox best at the plate this year and they couldn't really afford to lose what he was bringing to the table. Well, he launched a laser into the Monster seats for a two-run homer to make it 3-0. Velazquez punched out the side in the top of the second, which is a huge move for a pitcher after his team puts runs on the board.
Cobb got taken deep again in the third, on a one-out shot to center by Martinez. JD has gotten hot and now has his third home run of the season. In the top of the fourth, Betts came out of the game due to his ankle issue. I guess it's good that he'd stayed in for a while, but seeing him leave was concerning of course. He was replaced by Blake Swihart, who moved over to left while JBJ moved to right. In the bottom of the inning, Sandy Leon led off with a single. Lin smacked a one-out base hit and then both runners moved up into scoring position on a Blake Swihart ground out. Benintendi drove both runs home on a single to right, and he advanced to second on the throw in to the plate. After a mound visit, Hanley roped a double to drive in Benny and make it 7-0 Boston. At this point, Cobb was done. He'd gotten racked in three and two thirds innings while giving up eight runs (seven earned) on ten hits and one walk.
Miguel Castro replaced Cobb and got JD Martinez to ground to Manny Machado at short. The All Star made his second throwing error of the game and allowed another run to score for Boston. It was 8-0 and two of the runs were because of Machado's sloppy play. In the fifth, the O's finally broke through for two runs off of Velazquez. Anthony Santander smacked a one-out double and Pedro Alvarez ripped a two-run homer to center to get Baltimore on the board. Velazquez limited the damage and got out of the inning to finish his day. His final line was five innings pitched, six hits, two runs, one walk and five strikeouts. The righty got the win and has certainly done his job as a spot starter for Boston, especially this year. The sixth saw Adam Jones lead the inning off with a sinking liner to right. Of course, JBJ came out of nowhere and made a phenomenal catch to rob him of a hit. In the bottom half, Swihart led off with a double and Martinez drove him in with a two-out single to left. The seventh featured one more run come across for Boston on a shattered bat single to center from Swihart.
In the ninth, the Orioles picked up one meaningless run off of Marcus Walden when Chris Davis doubled, advanced to third on a groundout and was driven in by a Chance Sisco ground out. Walden picked up the save, even though the game was 10-3. Many people don't know, but if you pitch the last three innings you get one. It's kind of odd, but good for him. Velazquez grabbed the win while Cobb took the loss. Boston had atleast split the series and now would go for the win on Sunday at 1:05 p.m.
Despite some terrible weather that included temperatures in the 30's, wind and rain, the Sox and Orioles indeed played the third game of the set. Chris Sale was out there for the Sox against Dylan Bundy for the Orioles. In the first, Sale gave up a run when Mancini singled to lead it off and Machado smoked an RBI double to left. It took until the fifth for another run to score, this time for Boston. Lin singled with one out, JBJ grounded into a fielder's choice that took Lin off the bases but put him on first and Benintendi tripled him home. In the sixth, Sale was done for the day at 93 pitches. It was an extremely short outing for him as he only went five, but he only gave up the two hits and the one run in the first and then walked two and struck out eight. He pitched really well again, but didn't have his best stuff and it was probably a good move for Cora to pull him sooner rather than later.
In the bottom of the sixth, Martinez reached on an error by Danny Valencia at third. Valencia was pretty sloppy over there all weekend. Mitch Moreland followed that up with a double to put two runners in scoring position. Bundy then shot himself in the foot with a wild pitch that allowed Martinez to score and give Boston a 2-1 lead. The Orioles "ace" struck out the next two batters but then allowed a single to Brock Holt and an RBI ground-rule double to Lin. It was 3-1 in favor of the Sox and they got Hembree, Matt Barnes and Craig Kimbrel to shut it down and take the win. That's huge for Hembree and Barnes because they haven't been great so far. Hembree actually got the win for the Sox while Bundy took the loss. Kimbrel registered his fifth save of the season and the Sox improved to 13-2. They had the series win and were still just finding ways to claim victory. It's been incredibly impressive so far.
So the last game of the four game series was scheduled for this morning at 11, as is tradition on every Marathon Monday/Patriots Day. However, the weather was brutal and caused the game to be postponed for the first time since 1984. I'd guess that the Orioles were happy about that. Now, the Sox own the best record in the majors and lead the AL East by 3.5 games. They are now in Anaheim and will face off with the second best team in the American League, the Angels (13-3). If you can stay up late enough, the game tomorrow night should be appointment viewing. David Price will look to bounce back after a short, and bad, start against the Yankees last Wednesday. For the Angels, it'll be Shohei Ohtani on the bump. Ohtani has been the best story of the MLB season thus far as he's dazzled on the mound and at the plate. The 23-year-old "Japanese Babe Ruth" is 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA and 18 strikeouts in 13 innings pitched. Opponents are hitting .093 against him. We'll see how he fares against a Boston lineup that has bludgeoned everyone so far. First pitch is at 10:07 p.m.