So....uh....that wasn’t very fun. The Red Sox couldn’t come through with their chance to win the series and take a three-game win streak to Minnesota.
We weren’t really sure what to expect from Kyle Kendrick in this one, since he hadn’t started since 2015. After his strong spring training and a couple of solid starts in Pawtucket prior to this outing, there was at least some reason for optimism. Of course, there is a reason he hasn’t made a major-league appearance in two years, and that showed up on Thursday en route to the big loss to Baltimore.
Things actually started out okay for Kendrick, although he was never really dominating at any point. He allowed a couple of base runners in the first, but one was on an infield single that was hit just softly enough and just to the right spot to get on. The other was on an error by Josh Rutledge. I know, an error at third base. Who woulda thunk? He also induced three weak pop ups for outs and left the inning having not allowed a run. After a 1-2-3 second inning that included two groundouts and a popout, it looked like Kendrick might be ready to give the team a solid start.
The lineup behind him even gave him a lead to work with, which isn’t something some of the other starters have been able to say this year. Facing off against Tyler Wilson — a pitcher who, quite frankly, the Red Sox should destroy — they got off to a hot start in the first. After two quick outs, Mookie Betts and Hanley Ramirez put together two consecutive singles to put runners on the corners for Xander Bogaerts. The shortstop hit a bloop single to score one, then got caught in a rundown between first and second. In a bizarre turn of events, not only did Ramirez score during the rundown but the Orioles also forgot to cover first base and Bogaerts made it back safely.
So, with the Red Sox leading 2-0 heading into the third, Kendrick starting turning into the Kendrick we expected to see. Although the Orioles would get a run in this one, the Red Sox starter wasn’t exactly terrible in the frame. He allowed one solid single and one bunt single to put two on with one out, and a fielder’s choice put runners on the corners with two down. At this point, Manny Machado took off on a pitch to steal second base, and Vazquez mistakenly threw down despite Machado getting a great jump. The throw had no chance, and Seth Smith came home on the double steal to give Baltimore their first run of the game.
In the fourth, the wheels came off. Kendrick quickly allowed two singles and a walk to load the bases with nobody out. After a flyout, Smith hit a big double to left field to score two and tie the game. Two batters later, Machado hit yet another home run against the Red Sox, this time sending a fastball left in the upper part of the zone over the plate to the last row of the Monster Seats. Just like that, the Orioles had a six-run lead.
The score would remain 6-3 when the fourth ended, and that was the end of the night for Kendrick. In all, he had a couple of solid innings but mostly showed why he’s not a major-league starter. It was very clear that he didn’t have the stuff to strike out major-league hitting, and pitching to contact is very hard to do successfully. Eventually, the balls in play will find holes. On top of that, he made a few mistakes that led to hard contact and he got crushed for it. I don’t think they’re going to give up on him after one start, but I also wouldn’t expect anything much different his next time out.
Ben Taylor would come on for the fifth, and he didn’t do much better, allowing two runs to give the Orioles a big 8-3 lead. As with Kendrick, it was mostly singles that hurt Taylor, but they also weren’t all exactly cheapies.
The poor pitching was clearly the story here, but honestly I was just as disappointed in the Red Sox offense. As I mentioned before, Wilson is a guy they should crush and they just didn’t They put some good swings on the ball — Ramirez, for instance, had a couple of well-hit singles — but nothing really got going. Aside from the two runs scored in the first, the only other production from the lineup came from a Dustin Pedroia solo home run in the third. It was the second baseman’s first dinger of the season.
The Red Sox actually did give themselves a chance to get back into in the seventh, though. With Wilson out of the game, they put together a two-out rally with two singles and a walk that loaded the bases for Andrew Benintendi. The young outfielder made strong contact off Mychal Givens, smashing one to the warning track in right field. Unfortunately, Joey Rickard got there and made a miraculous diving, snowcone catch. It was just that kind of night.
On a more positive note, Brandon Workman made his first major-league appearance since 2014. He came on for Taylor in the top half of the sixth, and was....well, it was good to see him in action. He wasn’t really terrible, and he didn’t allow any runs in the frame, but it wasn’t really impressive. He was bailed out of a bases loaded, no outs situation when Chris Davis tried to score from second on a bloop single and was thrown out at home by Betts. Workman would also throw scoreless innings in the seventh and eighth, although he was shaky in the former. In all, it was a 46-pitch outing for the righty.
Overall it was a forgettable night. There was some more bad defense, more frustrating offense and a complete lack of pitching from their depth. The good news is this Orioles series is mercifully over and we don’t have to see them again until the start of June.