Once again, the Red Sox got a good outing from their starter and wasted it with poor early offense and too many late-game mistakes.
Dylan Bundy was good for Baltimore, but he had no business shutting the Red Sox offense down for most of this one. Once again, the team had chances and they just couldn’t come through with hard contact that was in the air. Despite scoring zero runs against the Orioles starter in his first seven innings, Boston had at least one base runner in each of the first six. Between Baltimore’s defense, bad luck, solid pitching by Bundy and an inability to get the ball off the ground, the offense had absolutely nothing.
By my unofficial count, 11 of Boston’s first 14 balls in play were hit on the ground. This is particularly concerning when you consider Bundy had a 31 percent ground ball rate coming into the night, per Baseball Prospectus. They hit into two double plays in this one, and were only able to get two batters into scoring position through the first seven. Xander Bogaerts was one of them when he hit a two-out double in third that was followed by a groundout from Andrew Benintendi. Later, in the fifth, Jackie Bradley drew a one-out walk and was pushed to second on a bunt single against the shift. They could have scored a run in this one with two outs, but a rocket from Bogaerts was snatched by Manny Machado on a fantastic play at third base.
Despite taking the loss, Rick Porcello had an outstanding start for the Red Sox. It was likely the best he’s looked all year, in fact, but he just couldn’t get any help from his lineup. He was working his fastball well all night long, and worked his curveball in at the most opportune times. Overall in his six innings of work he had seven strikeouts without walking a batter. It was the first time all year he’s gone without a walk.
Porcello set the Orioles down 1-2-3 in two of the first three innings, and didn’t really start getting into any trouble until the fourth. In that frame, he got two quick outs but then allowed a wall-ball double to Mark Trumbo, giving Baltimore their first runner in scoring position of the night. Porcello came right back with a strikeout of Chris Davis to end the inning. It was one of three strikeouts for the Orioles first baseman.
Porcello wouldn’t be able to avoid damage in the fifth, though. Things started off with a single from Jonathan Schoop, Baltimore’s first leadoff base runner of the night. After two getting two quick outs, it looked like the Red Sox starter may be able to get out of it again, particularly with the number nine hitter Caleb Joseph coming to the plate. The Orioles catcher put up a good fight, though, and ended up taking a cutter that got just enough of the plate and smacked it into the left-center field gap for an RBI double. Just like that, Baltimore had what seemed like an insurmountable lead.
They’d get another run in the following inning, and it came from Red Sox Enemy Number One Manny Machado. This also happened to be immediately after the great inning-ending play he made against Bogaerts that I mentioned above. With one out in the top of the sixth, Porcello left a cutter up in the zone and down the heart of the plate and Machado sent it to the last rows of the Monster Seats. If the 1-0 deficit didn’t feel insurmountable, the 2-0 one did.
Again, Porcello was good and didn’t deserve to lose this game. The one issue for the Red Sox starter was that he was a little inefficient, but even that’s not on him. He wasn’t throwing a lot of balls, but the Orioles lineup did a good job of fighting in two-strike counts. That’ll happen sometimes.
After this, the Red Sox turned to the bullpen and things only got worse. Well, the seventh went pretty well. Heath Hembree took over for Porcello and continued what has been a very solid season with a 1-2-3 inning that included two strikeouts. He’d come back out for the eighth and it wasn’t so smooth.
After a leadoff strikeout, Hembree walked Seth Smith, who was a pain in the ass for Red Sox pitching all night. Then, Adam Jones hit an easy double play ball right back to Hembree, but he threw it into center field. It looked like he thought Dustin Pedroia was covering on the play when Bogaerts was running to the bag and he simply threw it to the wrong guy. They had another chance to get out of it in the net at bat with another routine double play ball, this time hit to Marco Hernandez at third base. The ball went through his legs, though, and another play was blown, this time allowing a run to score. Two more runs would score in the disaster of an inning, giving the Orioles a 5-0 lead and seemingly putting it out of reach.
The Red Sox did start threatening in the bottom half of the inning, though. With Bundy still in the game but up over 100 pitches, Hernandez led things off with a solid double to left field before moving over to third on a misplayed popup off the bat of Bogaerts. That put two on for Benintendi who came threw with an RBI single and that was the night for Bundy. Darren O’Day would come in and get a quick flyout before allowing a rocket to Hanley Ramirez.
The ball to left field did score another run, but resulted in yet another blunder for the Red Sox. Ramirez didn’t look up after making contact and didn’t realize that Benintendi didn’t advance to third. He’d realize it when he got to second base and saw that he wasn’t the only one with a white shirt on the bag.
Instead of being down three with one out and two men on, they had two outs and one man on. Moreland would make good contact in the next at bat but Adam Jones ran it down in center field and came away with a diving grab to end the inning, and effectively, the game.
This is the time I mention the other thing that is now surrounding every Red Sox-Orioles game: Hit batsmen. In the bottom of the sixth with one out and a 2-0 lead, Bundy came in side on Mookie Betts a couple of times in the at bat and eventually hit him in the hip. It seemed like a weird time to purposely hit someone, but given the tensions between the two teams who knows what the motivations were. Betts took his time going to first, but ultimately nothing else came of the incident. It did guarantee we’re not done hearing about the potential for beanballs, though.
Things are starting to get frustrating for the Red Sox, but it’s not as bad as it seems. The pitching is there, it’s just a matter of the offense catching up and the defense not looking like they are playing in Little League. At least tomorrow is Sale Day. Now, it’s just a matter of scoring him runs.