The last time the Red Sox played the Orioles this season, they got the sweep. The last time this team lost to the Orioles, it was the opening weekend of the season. The last time this team lost to the Orioles, Garrett Richards was on the mound and a good portion of the fanbase was up in arms, worried about the future of the team given the big addition to the rotation looked like a complete bust.
Since then, Garrett Richards has posted a 2.70 ERA in 26 2⁄3 innings, and been one of the better members of the rotation. He has been especially magnificent in his most recent outings, as he has unlocked his potential a bit more with some mechanical tweaks.
Is this Richards for true, or are the Orioles his kryptonite?
Early on, it appeared the latter may be true. After Cedric Mullins hit a sharp grounder that newly promoted Michael Chavis couldn’t wrangle, he stole second base without a throw. Some small ball pushed the runner over to third, and a DJ Stewart liner brought the runner home for an early 1-0 lead in favor of the Orioles. He limited it to one, but it was a little discouraging to start from behind yet again. Adding insult to injury, despite the poor defense the scorers ruled the Mullins play a hit, meaning an earned run undeservedly added itself to Richards’ ledger.
The Red Sox were not discouraged. Christian Vázquez drew a walk off of the rookie pitcher, Zac Lowther, and Marwin Gonzalez made Lowther a loather. He punished a changeup outside the zone for a double and the Orioles misplayed things in a humorous way, leading to Vázquez coming all the way around to score from first. Following this, Hunter Renfroe (don’t look now, but he entered today’s game hitting .308/.308/.577 in the month of May) hit a single to score Gonzalez and give the Sox a 2-1 lead.
The most encouraging thing to happen in the inning was a Michael Chavis home run, that made it a 4-1 game. More encouraging? It was the same type of pitch he had been struggling with dating back to last season: the pitch up in the zone. That sounds weird, so I’m just going to put it in bold print, and force us all to acknowledge it.
Michael Chavis got a high pitch and hit it for a home run.
When you go up in the zone, better bring more than 84 pic.twitter.com/o6RnC9n9Wm— Red Sox Stats (@redsoxstats) May 8, 2021
The Orioles struck back with a home run that just barely snuck over the left field wall around the foul pole. It was hit 350 feet by Freddy Galvis, but it was a good pitch by Richards. Sometimes, good hitting just beats good pitching, which was the case this time. The game was 4-2, but it felt solidly in Red Sox control to this point as they were hitting and pitching well.
The Red Sox were not deterred by that weak home run, as they retaliated with another strong inning of offensive production. After a Xander Bogaerts single and Rafael Devers walk, Vázquez ripped a ball back up the middle to bring one of the runners home. After striking out Gonzalez, the Orioles saw enough. Lowther was removed in the third inning, having given up five earned runs, and with two more runners in scoring position. Both would score as a result of a Bobby Dalbec single. All told, Lowther gave up seven runs in 2 1⁄3 innings in his first start at the major-league level.
Alex Verdugo already has FOUR 3-hit games this season.— Boston Strong (@BostonStrong_34) May 9, 2021
Alex Verdugo hasn’t been mentioned to this point, but he had a good game as well. He led off the fourth inning with a single, his third hit in as many plate appearances. Then J.D. Martinez drove one up the middle to keep the conga line moving. A Bogaerts bloop into shallow right field loaded the bases, and with nobody out Devers stood up to the plate looking to become the final member of the Sox to get their first hit of the game. He didn’t get it, but he did the next best thing: He drove into a fielder’s choice, that brought in the eighth Red Sox run of the game. Vázquez then singled and drove in a run, and when the dust cleared, the game was 9-2, and under lock. Well, provided no surprise appearances from a reliever who must not be named.
Bogaerts decided a seven-run lead wasn’t enough. While Bogaerts didn’t actually say, “Say no more, fam, I got you”, that’s what it sounded like when his bat collided at Mach 7 with the ball, and sent the ball into outer space. One swing of the bat, two more runs on the board in the sixth inning, making it 11-2.
Garrett Richards, for his part, was excellent until the 6th inning when back-to-back missiles were launched down the third base line straight at Devers. It isn’t really fair to expect Devers to make those plays, but it isn’t called the hot corner for nothing. The second salvo to Devers drove in the third Orioles run of the evening. Ramon Urías drove in the fourth using some small ball. Bogaerts made a fantastic play to stop the bleeding there, as the Red Sox turned two to bail Richards out of The Bad Inning.
Richards calmed down from there and kept the Orioles scoreless in the seventh, and it appeared his night was over. Richards’s final line for the day: seven innings, eight hits, one walk, and four earned runs with five strikeouts. All told, it was a good outing, especially when you consider the nature of the first two runs scored. Richards continues to be a good pitcher for the Red Sox in 2021.
The Red Sox attempted another rally in the eight and even saw a pinch-hit appearance from Franchy Cordero in the game. Cordero drew a walk, which was pretty fun, but this was just about it for shenanigans in the inning.
The Red Sox turned to Austin Brice in the bottom of the eight, and he continued to make us question why he’s still on the roster. Brice pitched fine in this one inning, but is still probably the first man on the firing line if they decide to send down a pitcher.
The last Orioles pitcher of the game was position player Pat Valaika. He put on the best pitching performance of the night for either side, because baseball is stupid.
Brice returned for a second inning of work for some reason. Other than hitting a couple more batters, his second and third of the game (yes, he hit three batters with a seven-run lead against the Orioles), he also walked a guy and almost beaned Austin Hays in the head. He gave up a hit to Hays, and after throwing 48 pitches, Brice was finally done. Thankfully he did not cost the Red Sox a win, because Josh Taylor came in and shut it down right away. The final score was 11-6. The score lies. The game wasn’t ever that close. Brice made things interesting though.
The win pushes the Red Sox to 21-13. They play again tomorrow at 1:05 PM ET.