The Pope may be visiting Philadelphia, but Saturday night it was Fenway Park that bore witness to a bonafide miracle.
It is a well-known fact: the Red Sox bullpen is awful. In fact, coming into this game, it was the worst unit in baseball by fWAR. And that was even with the likes of Koji Uehara and Junichi Tazawa in the mix. Without them, it's almost become a joke. The Red Sox are the only team that can be considered behind with an early 4-0 lead.
So with Craig Breslow taking the mound Saturday to kick off a bullpen game, well, disaster was guaranteed. Barring, well, a miracle.
Nine innings later, and the Red Sox have not only a win, but a second straight shutout of the Orioles, 8-0.
It's a deceptive score. This game was close for a very long time, and only truly got out of reach in the eighth. But it doesn't matter. When you get nine shutout innings, one run is as good as eight, and somehow, that's what the Red Sox got. Breslow made it four on his own--which might well mark the first time he's put together four scoreless innings this season (it doesn't, but let me have my snark)--before handing the ball off to Heath Hembree for the fifth. Matt Barnes was the next greatest contributor, pitching the sixth and seventh while allowing just one baserunner on a walk.
The names just keep coming, though, with Ogando, Layne, Ramirez, and 8.22 ERA Jonathan Aro making appearances as well. The average ERA of Boston's pitchers tonight (unweighted) was 5.73, and the Orioles just couldn't bring a run in. In fact, there weren't even many scary innings. They got a single and double from Jonathan Schoop and Gerardo Parra in the second, but both came with two outs already on the board. The same was true for the fifth when J.J. Hardy singled and Nolan Reimold walked, with the biggest threat probably coming in the eighth when Ogando allowed Ryan Flaherty to reach second with one out. But Layne performed his LOOGY duties admirably against Chris Davis, and Jackie Bradley Jr. hauled in Steve Pearce's fly ball to end the frame.
Wei-Yin Chen did a good job of matching Breslow and co. for the most part, and seemed to be really hitting his stride when he struck out five-of-six batters between the third and fourth innings. Just as quickly, though, he hit a speed bump in the fifth, Walking Brock Holt with one out and giving up the RBI double into the left field corner to Josh Rutledge. Holt would pay the favor forward in the very next inning, hitting a ground ball up the middle to bring Rusney Castillo home and make it 2-0.
Ultimately, what turned the game from a close affair into a laugher were Baltimore gifts. In the seventh, Oliver Drake gave a free pass to Blake Swihart to start, then found himself in deep trouble when Mookie Betts double to left with one out, putting two men in scoring position. Drake managed to get Dustin Pedroia to pop-up, however, and would have been out of the inning on a Xander Bogaerts ground ball had Manny Machado not watched the ball skip right past his glove at third, allowing both runners to score. Lou Brown would have had words with him.
The eighth proved even worse. Two more errors combined with two more walks, contributed heavily to the Red Sox doubling their lead, with Mookie Betts' double that landed just fair down the right field line and bounced up into the stands being the most convincing offense of the inning.
However the runs came, though, the Red Sox got eight of them, and the Orioles zero, in a game started by the bullpen. The Red Sox bullpen. Sorry if I sound like a broken record today, but I need to keep saying it if I'm ever going to believe it. And frankly, I don't know that point will ever come. Rich Hill is pitching like the best pitcher in baseball, and the bullpen is throwing shutouts. What the hell is happening in Fenway Park?