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Red Sox 6, Orioles 4: Richards atones, Barnes beautiful, Red Sox never say die

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MLB: Boston Red Sox at Baltimore Orioles Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Last time Garrett Richards threw a baseball for the Red Sox, it did not go well. There was a lot of crying, and a lot of pain. After that game, the Red Sox were 0-3, and things did not look great for the hometown 9. Any time you get swept by the Orioles, you are going to face a lot of tough questions.

Credit to the Red Sox, they faced those questions with aplomb, and have not lost a game since, going 4-0 since then. Now the Red Sox sit atop the AL East in a tie with the same Orioles they were swept by to open the season. A big part of why they were 4-0 over that stretch was J.D. Martinez, who was placed on the COVID-19 list, as a precautionary measure. Replacing him on the roster? Michael Chavis.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Baltimore Orioles Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The Sox drew Bruce Zimmermann as an opponent once more. Last time out, Zimmermann held the Sox to four hits and a walk over six innings of work, as he absolutely stymied them all game. The Red Sox needed to do better this time out against Zimmermann, but more importantly was that Garrett Richards needed to be significantly better to at least give them a chance in this one.

The Red Sox attacked Zimmermann more aggressively (or at least more successfully) this time out. The scoring began in inning number one, courtesy of a Rafael Devers single up the middle that plated Alex Verdugo, and moved Xander Bogaerts over to 2nd. That later part is very important to note, because on the next sequence, Devers got caught in a run down after a step off. While Devers was in no-man’s land and just stalling for time, Bogaerts snuck all the way around to home plate, giving the Red Sox a 2-0 lead early on. Devers would eventually be tagged out, but just stalling for time was enough for that play.

So with that, eyes turned to Richards, who was looking to improve on what can only be labeled a disaster outing.

This one didn’t start any better, as Richards served up back to back solo shots to both Trey Mancini and Anthony Santander. Just like that, the lead evaporated. The score was tied. While he was able to rebound and get out of the inning, it’s just disheartening to lose a lead that you held for all of five seconds.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Baltimore Orioles Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

One particularly irritating play that could have and should have gone better involved an attempted strike-em-out-throw-em-out play, as a perfect throw had the baserunner dead to rights at second. Rafael Devers, who was shifted over fielded the throw, and instead of applying the tag... just kind of peaced out and ran off the field. Yeah. They were able to get out of the inning on the next batter, but its another notch in the belt of those who think Devers defense is not getting better.

Richards settled down over the next few innings, as he looked, in a word splendid. In many words, his pitches were more consistent, he was hitting the corners with more regularity, and the stuff that the Orioles hitters made contact with was good enough that they couldn’t do much with it. All told, he pitched five innings, gave up two earned runs, both on home runs, three walks, and struck out four. You’ll take that from Richards, even if it meant giving up the lead early. It would be on the hitters and bullpen to pick this one up.

Box score won’t show it, but Enrique Hernandez had a hell of a power stroke today, but had trouble getting it the last few inches out. Two separate balls were hit 410 feet, one was a double, and the other was a long fly out. While he had zero home runs to show for it, it was nice to see the power being present, since to this point in the season, it was the other aspects of his game on display.

Rafael Devers may not be able to play third base very well, but boy can he hit. He broke this one open in the top of the sixth inning with a fly-ball that kept carrying and carrying. When it landed (after a couple of camera pans), the Sox were up 3-2 by way of the long-ball. mlb.com says the ball traveled 435 feet, but I feel like it had to have gone farther.

First man out of the pen was Darwinzon Hernandez. While Hernandez didn’t have his best control, he also didn’t have his worst. Presumably, this is why Alex Cora left Hernandez in for a second inning of work, to the puzzlement of several viewers at home. While he was able to get a ground out to start the frame, Cedric Mullins was able to muscle a double down the right field line. With a runner on first and one way, Cora turned to Adam Ottavino in relief. He struck out one, and got the other out on a pretty weak groundout. No drama, just how you like your relief appearances.

Or that’s what I would have said if Cora pulled him after that. Ottavino was left in for the 8th, and things spiraled. A single and a double led off the inning, leaving runners in scoring position with no outs. Then a bouncing ball went up the first base line, and Bobby Dalbec threw home, but didn’t get it there in time, as the score got knotted up at three. He got a strikeout, but then gave up another single to drive in the 4th Orioles run. And just like that, the Sox were losing. Hard to blame Ottavino, as he was left in a bit too long. You can see the method to Alex Cora’s madness, but this is twice in the same game he tried to squeeze an extra inning out of his reliever, and it backfired.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Baltimore Orioles Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

It’s worth mentioning that the last play in the 8th inning, that kept the game within reach involved a nice defensive play by Rafael Devers. It’s a shame that he makes so many gaffes defensively, or he could be a truly special talent at third.

The final frame began, and the Red Sox faced a one run deficit. To take up the trials were Rafael Devers, Marwin Gonzalez, and Christian Arroyo. Devers got retired on just one pitch. Gonzalez slapped one into right field. Pinch hitting for Arroyo: Franchy Cordero. Cordero laced one into right field, and moved Gonzalez over to third. Runners on the corners, with one out in the inning, up to the plate was Bobby Dalbec. The Orioles went with an extreme shift, in the hopes of forcing a groundout double-play. It went pretty much according to plan, except for the fact Dalbec can actually run. He beats out the double-play, Gonzales scores, and the game is tied. The Red Sox were still alive in this one.

With extra innings comes the weird extra innings rules that I still dislike. The Red Sox gave up the use of the DH to pinch run Michael Chavis for Kevin Plawecki (Christian Vázquez was the DH in this one, and moved to catcher following this move), and it may have paid off. After a sac fly pushed him to third, a wild pitch to the backstop got him home, giving the Red Sox a 5-4 lead.

After two walks by Dillon Tate, the Red Sox brought Vázquez to the plate, who sliced a ball into left field, that scored Verdugo from second, making it 6-4. While they would be unable to score again, they did secure a two-run lead for the bottom of the 10th.

Facing the Orioles with the game on the line... Matt Andriese. Well ok then. While the methodology was strange, the end result is all that matters. The Red Sox won relatively drama free, though there was some strange baseball played by the Orioles at the end of it. That win makes it five straight, and puts the Red Sox all alone in first place in the AL East.

They look to sweep the Orioles tomorrow at 1:05 PM. Be there.

BOX SCORE

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