The Red Sox did their job on Sunday and that finished the job for this series. This was an all-around effort as the offense scored five runs on home runs, including two from J.D. Martinez, and got production up and down the lineup. The pitching staff, led by Eduardo Rodriguez, allowed a lot of hits but they were all singles and the Orioles couldn’t sequence them well enough to score even one run. Boston headed into this series looking to take at least three of the four games in this series, and that’s exactly what they did. That’ll do.
Rodriguez had a really strong outing, but the offense and the dinger party that has ensued over the last couple of days was the story here. The Red Sox lineup has been good for pretty much the entire year, of course, but they have been frustrating at times. One game won’t change that, of course, and there are still some questions at the bottom (though that part of the lineup was good today), but the last two games — and this one in particular — was a nice reminder that the power in this group can carry the day. It’s a startling contrast from last year’s team, as it always feels like the top half of this lineup is just one pitch away from some instant runs.
While the final tally was a nice one for the Red Sox offense, the early parts of the game were pretty lackluster against David Hess, making just the second major-league start of his career. They were certainly looking for a big start and an early lead, but they went down in order in the first inning. The second inning changed that with Martinez’ first homer of the game. He got an inside fastball for the first pitch of that at bat and the slugger pushed it out to right field and hooked it around Pesky’s Pole for a solo shot, giving the Red Sox a 1-0 lead. Boston would get two more baserunners in the inning, but they’d ultimately be stranded on the corners.
The third inning also showed some promise as Mookie Betts just missed a home run out to left-center field, instead having to settle for a double high off the Monster to lead off the frame. The next three batters would go down in order, however, stranding the runner in scoring position.
After a 1-2-3 fourth, the score was still only 1-0 heading into the fifth, but Hess lost control of the game and the Red Sox showed off their muscles here. Although there were a couple of homers in this inning, perhaps the most encouraging part of the rally was what started it, when Jackie Bradley Jr. ripped a double down the right field line on one of his best swings of the season. Obviously that’s not a high bar, but it was really nice to see that kind of contact.
He was rewarded, too, because two batters later Andrew Benintendi would come up and continue his torrid pace by launching a middle-in fastball into the bullpen for a two-run shot. 3-0 Red Sox. Mitch Moreland followed that up with a ground-rule double into the right field corner, giving Martinez another chance to shine. He waited for the second pitch this time around, taking another middle-in fastball and sending it way out to straightaway center field. That was his second homer of the day, and it tied him for the major-league lead on the season with Betts. Pretty neat. Boston would get two more baserunners, but left the inning with the 5-0 lead.
As all of this was going on, Rodriguez was putting together an impressive performance of his own. It’s easy to look at the Orioles record and assume their offense is bad. They do have plenty of holes to be exploited, but this is also a lineup that is capable of doing damage against anyone and they’ve been doing that plenty of late. Rodriguez had some of his best stuff of the year here, however, and he was mixing in all of his pitches. The fastball was still the focus, as always, but he showed off his slider, cutter and changeup throughout the day.
Through the first few innings, he didn’t have any perfect runs through the order, but he also never really found himself in major trouble. In each of the first two innings he allowed one single, but the runner never advanced beyond first base. The third was a bit shakier as he allowed a pair of one-out singles, but a pop up and a ground ball ended the threat with a goose egg still on the board for the O’s. The fourth would go similarly as he’d again allow a pair of runners, but neither scored. One of those runners reached on an error, however, as Rafael Devers made another miscue in the field. This was another instance of the young third baseman aggressively charging in on a ball he likely could have played more patiently and still gotten the out. It’s a frustrating mistake, but it didn’t prove costly this time around and it’s something that is due more to youth than an inability to handle the position.
The fifth was the best inning of the day for the lefty, particularly since it came against the top of Baltimore’s lineup. Rodriguez did allow another single in this inning, but he surrounded it with three strikeouts in a dominant showing. The sixth represented some actual trouble for the Red Sox starter, and in what became a trend all afternoon it came on singles. He did record a couple of outs in the inning, but ended up leaving the bases loaded for his bullpen on three singles of different varieties. One came on a rocket off the Monster, one was an infield single and one was a soft line drive that fell into right field.
Heath Hembree would come in with the bases jams, and he quickly induced a pop up to right field to end the inning. That closed the book on Rodriguez, who tossed 5 2⁄3 innings of scoreless ball on nine hits (all singles) with no walks and seven strikeouts. The hit total looks ugly, but it misrepresents his day. It was a really good start.
From here it was just on the bullpen to make sure the Red Sox didn’t have to turn to their closer. Hembree came back out for the seventh and allowed one single but nothing beyond that. The eighth belonged to Bobby Poyner, and he allowed a pair of singles before escaping with the shutout still in hand. Brian Johnson came in for the ninth and he gave the O’s their first extra-base hit of the day in the form of a leadoff double. He’d work his way around that, though and maintain the shutout and give the Red Sox their fourth win in five days.
The Red Sox can take a day to relish in this series victory with a day off on Monday before traveling down to Tampa Bay. That three-game set against the Rays starts on Tuesday with Chris Sale taking the mound against Jacob Faria, with first pitch coming at 7:10 PM ET.