On a night where the Red Sox put ten men on base against Chris Tillman and seemed ready to send him to the showers early, it was Brandon Workman and the bullpen that ended up carrying the load for the team in a 1-0 victory over the Baltimore Orioles.
It was a rainy night in Baltimore, leading to two rain delays separated by all of about 20 minutes in the early innings. Both before the delays and after, however, Brandon Workman was on. About as on as he's ever been. So far this season, we've never really seen the pitcher who drew so much attention in his short rotation stint in 2013, but tonight it was that Workman that took the mound. His curveball was fantastic--close, perhaps, to the changeup that Rubby De La Rosa flashed in his first start--and the Orioles could do nothing when he mixed it in with well-placed fastballs.
It's hard, really, not to think back to Workman's first start in that year. He would lead the Athletics chasing their first base hit all the way into the seventh before Coco Crisp broke up his no-hit bid with an infield single. This time around his attempt lasted one fewer out, with Ryan Flaherty breaking it up with a two-out flared single in the sixth (on a hanging curve of all things). But, unlike against the Athletics, Workman did not allow the hit to lead to costly runs, getting Nick Markakis and the first two batters of the seventh to ground out to end his night on an entirely positive note.
When Red Sox fans were pulled away from the pursuit of history, unfortunately, they were left in an uncomfortably close game. It's always jarring to have one of those greater pursuits end only to realize that, no matter how superlative the pitcher on the mound may have been, the offense had left them with no room for error.
Such was the case for Workman, however. Mike Napoli had driven in a lone run in the third, but otherwise the Red Sox were in rare wasteful form at the plate tonight, squandering bases loaded situations in both the second and fourth innings, the latter coming without an out on the board. Even after Workman left, the near-misses continued, with some near-homers dying just short, leaving the Red Sox bullpen with no leeway to speak of.
Had the bullpen squandered Workman's incredible start, it would have been one of the year's more tragic games. Thankfully, they were up to the task of holding the Orioles. Andrew Miller quickly did his job against Chris Davis to end the seventh with a strikeout, then Junichi Tazawa tore through the 5-6-7 hitters on just 10 pitches. That left only Koji Uehara. While the closer would surrender a leadoff single to make things tense, he did an excellent job cutting down the lead runner on a bunt attempt, and put away Nick Markakis and Manny Machado to preserve the lead and, with it, Workman's excellent start.