This was a strange baseball game in Baltimore on Sunday, but the Red Sox came away with a sweep. On a day when the Red Sox allowed 15 baserunners, gave up a run that was eventually called back on a safety squeeze, threw four wild pitches, gave up a key stolen base of third on a delay steal and used Travis Lakins in a tie game in the eighth who eventually gave up the lead, they still won! Home runs from Marco Hernandez and Rafael Devers in the ninth and tenth, respectively, were the key, though a ton of assistance was provided by the Orioles offense with runners in scoring position. It wasn’t pretty, but a win is a win is a win is a win.
The Red Sox were on a bit of a roll heading into Sunday’s game, having won four in a row including some big offense in their first two games down in Baltimore against the Orioles. Based that and the fact that their opponent is the worst team in baseball, finishing the sweep was sort of the expectation on Sunday. That said, there was reason to be concerned about this game. For one thing, Boston was sending Brian Johnson to the mound. The lefty isn’t the most overpowering or consistent pitcher in the world under normal circumstances, and this was to be his first major-league appearance since April 5 due to injury. On the other side, the Orioles were pitching John Means, whose results have been better than his peripherals but overall he’s still been impressive and has shut down the Red Sox twice already this year.
Early on, Boston’s offense once again struggled to get much going against the late-blooming southpaw for the Orioles. Means wasn’t perfect by any....means (I’m sorry), but the Red Sox failed to pile up their hits in any significant way in the early going. They got a single in each of the first three innings, with two of the three leading off the inning, but none of the runners was able to advance beyond first base.
On the other side, Johnson looked like a guy who hadn’t pitched in the majors in over two months and was a little rusty. He had a fairly lengthy rehab appearance, of course, so it’s not as if he hadn’t pitched at all but obviously it’s a different beast pitching in the majors. Anyway, he got into a bit of trouble in the first when he kicked things off with a single, a wild pitch and a walk. It seemed like Baltimore was ready to jump out to an early lead, but Johnson came back with a huge double play ball before striking out Renato Núñez to end the inning.
Johnson looked much better in an easy 1-2-3 second, but the Orioles got back to work in the third and did actually pick up the early lead. With the score still knotted up at zeros heading into the bottom of the third, Keon Broxton got things started by ripping a double past Rafael Devers. After a fly out moved the runner to third, Hanser Alberto chopped one directly into the ground that bounced high up to Xander Bogaerts at shortstop. It was way too high for the Red Sox to have a chance at an out, and the infield single gave the Orioles a 1-0 lead. The runner would eventually end up at second on a wild pitch and they’d get another man on with a walk, but no more runs scored.
Fortunately, Boston was ready to answer back in the fourth, and they did so quickly. Devers started this inning with a base hit through the middle, bringing Bogaerts to the plate. The shortstop came through with the big run-producing swing we’ve seen from him so often this year, smoking a double out to left-center field. Devers continued to show off his wheels and came all the way around from first to tie the game at one run apiece. Michael Chavis then followed that up with a pop up to the right side against the shift that would fall in. Bogaerts was aggressively waved in by third base coach Andy Barkett, but that was a big mistake. Bogaerts realized that too late and was eventually tagged out in a rundown that had the side benefit of getting Chavis to second. That second part would be important because Jackie Bradley Jr. came up next and smacked a double of his own out to right-center field, easily allowing Chavis to score and give the Red Sox a 2-1 lead.
Now, in the bottom of the fourth, it was up to Johnson to come through with a shutdown inning. This is where the game got weird for a bit. The inning started conventionally enough with a pair of singles against Johnson that knocked the lefty out of his game without having recorded an out in the inning. After a ground ball resulted in runners on the corners with one out, Broxton came up to the plate and dropped a bunt of a safety squeeze play.
On first glance, it appeared to work as planned with Broxton being narrowly thrown out at first but Anthony Santander coming in to score. Then, Orioles manager Brandon Hyde spoke to the umpires and replay revealed Chavis’ foot may have been taken off the bag on the throw. The ultimate result, it seemed, may be that Broxton would be ruled safe and the Red Sox wouldn’t even get an out. Instead, the umpires convened and ruled (correctly) that Broxton was running in on the grass and out of the baselining, causing interference with Chavis on the throw. As a result, Broxton was out and the runners were sent back to first and third, meaning the Red Sox still had the 2-1 lead. It was very weird! Hyde was upset, had some words with the umpires and was kindly asked to leave before play resumed. Colten Brewer came back from that bizarre play with a big strikeout and somehow the Red Sox held onto the lead in the fifth.
In the bottom of that fifth inning, the red-hot Mike Shawaryn came into the game. The righty did not look as good as he has in some of his other recent appearances. After getting a quick first out, Shawaryn allowed a walk and a single. He’d get a second out before walking another batter — that second walk doubled his season total — to load the bases. Alex Cora had seen enough at this point and opted to call upon Josh Taylor with the switch-hitting Jonathan Villar and left-handed Chris Davis was coming up. It worked out as Taylor got a ground out and once again Baltimore left runners on base with a chance to at least tie the game.
Taylor remained on for the sixth as well, and this time he allowed just one baserunner in a scoreless inning.
Marcus Walden then came on for the seventh and got into trouble immediately. The righty allowed a base hit to Trey Mancini to lead things off, then allowed the runner to get to second on a wild pitch. Walden came back nicely after this, though, with a strikeout, a fly out and a ground out as Baltimore left yet another runner in scoring position. This put them at 1-13 on the day in those situations.
Walden came back out for the eighth, and just like in the seventh he allowed the leadoff man to reach (this time with a walk) before they got to second base (this time on a stolen base). Walden then struck out Davis for the first out, but after strike three Vázquez made a lazy throw back to the mound on which Villar swiped third base, putting the tying run just 90 feet away. With Rio Ruiz now at the plate, Walden threw a pitch in the dirt that got away from Vázquez and Villar came in to tie the game at two.
After getting the second out of the inning, Walden’s day was over with Travis Lakins coming on to finish the inning. The righty got two quick strikes on pinch hitter Stevie Wilkerson, but then the latter put a line drive out to the right field corner for a big, two-out triple. Once again, Lakins was a strike away from ending the inning but instead Alberto put a single through the middle and suddenly the Orioles had a 3-2 lead.
So, now the Red Sox offense had some work to do to try and at least extend this game a bit. Marco Hernandez took care of business in that regard, getting a 1-1 changeup on the outer half and putting it out over the wall in left-center field for a solo home run. Just like that the game was tied up again. Betts came up after that and smoked one out to right field that just made it over a leaping Mancini’s glove. Betts made it all the way around for a triple on the play, and the go-ahead run was now 90 feet away. Vázquez struck out after that, leaving it up to J.D. Martinez. He would also strike out, though, and the game stayed tied heading into the bottom of the ninth.
Brandon Workman then got the call to try and get this thing into extras, but he started the bottom of the ninth with a single. That was all Baltimore would get, though, and we did indeed head into a tenth inning.
Said tenth inning started off with a bang thanks to Devers. The young third baseman got a fastball belt-high over the outer half of the zone, and he blasted one over 450 feet out to center field for a solo shot, putting the Red Sox back on top. Boston would add a couple more insurance runs later in the inning thanks to some very Orioles defense from the Orioles. Baltimore did weirdly try to appeal the scoring play at second and third and then went to a video review, because this game was extremely dumb in that way. Then the Red Sox added two more to turn this into a five-run game.
Now it was just up to Josh Smith not allowing five runs in the bottom of the tenth. He did allow a two-run homer and a solo homer, but that’s only three runs not five. It was enough to finally end this ridiculous baseball game.
The Red Sox will take their five-game win streak out to the Midwest to take on the best team in baseball, at least by record. Boston will take on the Twins in a three-game set starting on Monday with Rick Porcello taking on José Berríos for Game One. First pitch is set for 8:10 PM ET.