It’s almost never fair to go into a series saying a team should sweep, because even the worst of teams are still major-league clubs. Winning three in a row against any major-league club is tough. That said, a reeling Red Sox club desperately needed a turnaround, and facing an Orioles team that ranks among the worst in the sport, a sweep felt like the one thing that could lift spirits. And sure enough, they emphatically got the sweep. It was finished up on Sunday with an all-around win, getting six great innings from Eduardo Rodriguez, a big three-run shot from J.D. Martinez, Kyle Schwarber’s first hits in a Red Sox uniform, and a big showing from the bullpen out of Garrett Whitlock.
Facing down a potential sweep that was desperately needed from this Red Sox team, they were also just looking for a third straight stress-free victory. Given how bad the last few weeks have been, it’s hard to overstate how nice it would be for an easy weekend against a team in the Orioles they should be able to handle. They got through the first two nights just fine, and turned to Rodriguez Sunday afternoon to finish the sweep against his former club.
The lefty was fantastic for most of this game. There were some signs early on that he may have some trouble with command and efficiency in this game, but those issues subsided fairly quickly and Rodriguez was able to roll through most of this outing.
The one bit of issue was right off the top. After starting the first off with a strikeout, Rodriguez lost the zone and issued a one-out walk before Trey Mancini swung at the first pitch he saw and laced a base hit to put two Orioles on. That brought Anthony Santander to the plate with Rodriguez looking for a ground ball. Instead, Baltimore’s designated hitter hit a line drive of his own into left. That should have resulted with the bases being loaded, but Martinez short-hopped his throw into the cutoff man. Rafael Devers couldn’t handle it, and as the ball bounced out towards the away dugout the Orioles were able to get a run across and take a 1-0 lead. There was a chance for more damage with two in scoring position and only one out, but Rodriguez dug in and limited the damage to one.
Meanwhile, the Red Sox offense didn’t take long to make their presence felt after falling behind. The bats have been hot all weekend, and they got the leadoff man on here this afternoon with a single from Kiké Hernández, and while that was followed by a double play the Red Sox kept things alive with a single and a walk. Eventually, Martinez came up with two men on and two outs, and he had the big swing of this game. Orioles starter Keegan Akin left a 2-1 slider over the plate, and Martinez hit a rocket out to left field for a three-run shot. Just a half inning after falling behind, the Red Sox were up by two.
The good news from here is that Rodriguez was able to put that first inning behind him and really cruise for the rest of his day. The southpaw did allow one runner to reach base in each of the second, third, and fourth innings, but none of them advanced beyond second base. That was followed up with perfect frames in both the fifth and sixth innings to get him through those six with just 83 pitches under his belt. He was taken out after those six — much to the southpaw’s chagrin, judging by his reaction in the dugout — without allowing an earned run.
The bad news is the offense struggled to get a whole lot going immediately after the Martinez homer as well. They did get a hell of a chance in the third with the meat of their order coming back around, as they loaded up the bases with just one out. But Kyle Schwarber hit a weak fly out to left field before Bobby Dalbec went down swinging, and the chance was squandered with the lead still standing at two.
Their next real chance came in the sixth, with old friend Fernando Abad coming in to pitch for Baltimore. Schwarber roped a ball into right field for a leadoff double, his first hit in a Red Sox uniform. Abad would later issue back-to-back walks before being pulled with the bases full and just one out, the same situation that was squandered in the third. That brought Hernández to the plate, and he absolutely ripped one down the line. It probably should have scored two, but the ball hit the third base umpire. Even so, it was an RBI single, putting Boston up by three, still with just one out.
They’d make up the potentially bad break anyway. Hunter Renfroe came up after Hernández, drawing a walk to bring another home, and Xander Bogaerts extended the lead to five on a fielder’s choice. They almost added at least one more on a Devers line drive, but Ryan McKenna ended the inning on a phenomenal diving grab.
But it was still a 6-1 ballgame, and Adam Ottavino was coming in for the Red Sox. The righty has been struggling of late, and despite an extended break between appearances he struggled with his command in this one as well. He almost gave up a Fenway Special homer to Pedro Severino down the right field line, but it just went foul. Ottavino then followed that up by hitting Severino before throwing back-to-back wild pitches to put the runner on third base. After a pop up and a walk, Jorge Mateo ripped a line drive back to the mound that rocked off Ottavino’s non-throwing shoulder. The ball bounced into right field, bringing home Baltimore’s second run of the game.
It also knocked Ottavino out of the game, with Garrett Whitlock coming in with men on the corners and still just one out. The young righty got the job done, inducing a pop up before getting a ground ball to end the inning with his team still leading 6-2. He’d come right back out for the eighth as well, retiring all three batters he faced there for another phenomenal outing.
That just left it up to Matt Barnes to protect a four-run lead, and while the closer has been struggling he got the job done this time, giving up a double and a single but not allowing a run. The 6-2 win pushed the Red Sox record to 69-51. As of this writing, the Rays and Athletics are losing while the Yankees lead. If all of those scores hold, they will move back to within three in the division and get back to a tie for the top wildcard spot. The Yankees would remain 2.5 games back of a wildcard spot.
The Red Sox are off on Monday before heading to the Bronx for three games in two days against the Yankees. They have a doubleheader on Tuesday, with the first game starting at 1:10 PM ET.