This was...a wild one. For a decent portion of this game it seemed like the Red Sox were going to go home with another loss. The offense was doing their part but Nathan Eovaldi was awful in his third start with the team and Heath Hembree struggled later in the game out of the bullpen. The offense was there to pick up the slack, though. The pitching has done that plenty in this second half, so they earned this support from the bats. Alex Cora did have to use a bunch of pitchers in this game, which was not ideal before Saturday’s doubleheader, but they got a win. They’ll take it, and deal with tomorrow when the sun rises.
For the second straight night, the Red Sox got a rough performance from a right-handed pitcher that put up a huge outing against the Yankees in his previous outing. First, it was Rick Porcello in Toronto on Thursday, and on Friday it was Nathan Eovaldi. After pounding the strike zone and methodically making his way through opposing lineups in his first two starts, he struggled a bit to throw strikes, didn’t have nearly as much movement on his pitches and left a few too many right over the heart of the plate. The Orioles took advantage. It’s easy to point to Dan Butler being behind the plate as the reason for the blow-up, and I think there’s some merit to those concerns, but Eovaldi deserves the vast majority of the blame. He was bad, plain and simple.
Eovaldi was handed a 3-0 lead right off the bat — we’ll get to that in a minute — but looked shaky right from the beginning of his outing. He walked the first batter he faced when throwing strikes was his most impressive attribute in his first few outings. He did get a big double play after that before allowing back-to-back singles. The righty did eventually escape the inning without allowing a run, but the writing was on the wall that things may not go so well this time around.
Sure enough, those fears came true in the second inning. That one started in the worst possible way, when Chris Davis took a flat cutter at the bottom of the zone and sent it way out to center field for a solo shot. It was still a two-run lead for the Sox, but that wouldn’t last much longer. Eovaldi then allowed a walk, a single and a double and the Orioles had their deficit down to one. After getting two pop ups, it seemed Boston may be able to escape the inning with their lead in hand, but Adam Jones killed that dream with a two-run single, and the Orioles left the second with a one-run lead.
Unfortunately, things didn’t get any better in the third. After a quick first out, Eovaldi allowed two straight singles before his defense started to let him down, too. Caleb Joseph hit a liner into center field, and Jackie Bradley Jr. ran a long way but got to the ball. However, he made a very rare mistake and the ball bounced off his glove, leading to another run on the two-base error. In the next at bat, Cedric Mullins — making his major-league debut and already with an RBI double under his belt — scalded one towards second base. The ball had a ton of topspin and took a wicked hop on Holt, who was playing in a bit with the runner on third, but it got over his glove. It was ruled a hit, and would have been a tough error, but he could have made the play. Instead, it was an RBI single. Eovaldi would allow a sac bunt and a single for two more runs to score, and he’d leave the game down 8-3 without even getting through three. It was....not great. Brandon Workman came in and the Orioles immediately were caught stealing to end the inning.
Meanwhile, the Red Sox offense was having a nice day themselves against Dylan Bundy and the Orioles, though it wasn’t being rewarded by their own pitching. As I said above, they did jump out to the early 3-0 lead, and that was thanks to the long ball and the top of the order. Mookie Betts started the game off with a walk, and after a J.D. Martinez double Xander Bogaerts walked to the plate with two on and two out. He appeared to get a little fooled by a slider on the outer half and didn’t even really put a great swing on it, but the shortstop still muscled it out to left field for a big three-run shot.
After stranding a couple runners in the second and going down in order in the third, the Red Sox were suddenly in a five-run hole heading into the fourth. They started chipping away in that inning with a rally started by a Brock Holt walk. A couple batters later Bradley hit a big triple to score one, and he’d come in to score on a passed ball, making it 8-5 after the top of the fourth.
After Brandon Workman tossed a scoreless inning in the fourth and Drew Pomeranz did the same in the fifth, the Red Sox looked to chip away even more in the sixth. They got off to a hell of a start in unlikely fashion, with Holt leading off the inning with a shot out to right field. It was a rare homer for the utility man and perhaps the best contact he’s made all year. The inning would continue with a Butler single and back-to-back walks from Bradley and Betts. Andrew Benintendi, who had a rough night to this point, failed in his opportunity, grounding into a fielder’s choice to cut Butler out at home. Mitch Moreland did come through with a sacrifice fly, and after an intentional walk to Martinez it was a bases loaded situation for Bogaerts. He would draw a walk, and the game was tied. Rafael Devers would do the same, and all of a sudden it was a lead for the Red Sox. Holt, the man who started it all, came through again with a two-run single, and Boston left the inning with an 11-8 lead.
Heath Hembree then came on for the Red Sox, and he looked about as bad as he has all year. Tim Beckham started that inning with a bang by sending a solo shot out to left field, quickly cutting the Red Sox lead to two. Then, with one out, the Orioles got a single and a double to put a pair in scoring position. Baltimore would get one more on a sacrifice fly, but then they’d strand runners on the corners to leave Boston with an 11-10 lead after six.
In the seventh, the Red Sox got those runs right back. After a double and a single to lead off the inning, Benintendi turned his night around. He got a slider right over the heart of the plate and sent it over Baltimore’s big right-field wall, giving Boston a 14-10 lead. That was all they’d get, but it was a cushion.
Ryan Brasier came in for the bottom half and finally, mercifully gave the Red Sox their first 1-2-3 inning of the night. Then, the Red Sox exploded for five more runs in the eighth to give themselves a nine-run cushion.
Matt Barnes would allow one run on a solo shot in the eighth, and there was some potential for drama in the top of the ninth. Bradley was a homer away from the cycle — Betts, of course, hit for the cycle on Thursday — but the Red Sox went down in order and he didn’t get his chance. Joe Kelly came on for the ninth and gave up a run before eventually closing out this long, but satisfying game.
So, the Red Sox took the first game of this four-game set and now have two to play on Saturday. David Price will take on Yefry Ramirez in the first game at 1:00, and starters have yet to be announced for the second game, which starts at 7:05.
As far as the division goes, this was a step in the right direction after Boston slipped a bit on Thursday. The Yankees lost 12-7 to the Rangers on Friday night, allowing the Red Sox to pick up another game in the AL East. That lead is now up to nine games.