The Red Sox, clearly, still have work to do, and specifically with their offense. They tried to shake things up a bit on Friday, designating Travis Shaw for assignment for Franchy Cordero, and swapping out Rob Refsnyder for Jaylin Davis. But in this series opener in Baltimore, they still had their issues, putting up three runs in the second in part thanks to a Christian Arroyo homer, but really doing nothing else the rest of the night. Fortunately, Rich Hill and Tanner Houck led the way in a scoreless performance from the pitching and the three runs of offense was enough. There are still strides to be made, but we’ll take a win in the meantime.
More robust game notes to follow.
For all of the talk of the offense’s struggles, it’s gotten a bit lost that they’ve actually gotten some good performances from their rotation, though obviously with some issues mixed in as well. One of the pitchers whose had his share of struggles has been Rich Hill, but he was on his game on Friday night in Baltimore. The southpaw had both his fastball and curveball working well, and kept the Orioles offense off-balance for the duration of his start.
And in fact, he was perfect for the vast majority of it. Striking out Cedric Mullins to start the game, Hill was in cruise control right from the get-go. He retired each of the first 12 batters he faced, with three of them going down with strikeouts. It was always unlikely, of course, that he’d even be allowed to finish a perfect game if he was able to keep it going long enough given his typical pitch limits, but it wouldn’t be an issue here. Austin Hays led off the fifth for Baltimore and hit a little infield single that was enough to not just finish off the perfect game chance, but end the game altogether for Hill, with Tanner Houck coming on after the starter.
But before we get to the bullpen portion of the night, we get to that offense which had a bit of a new look today. Adding both Franchy Cordero and Jaylin Davis to the roster, and the former getting the start at first base for this game, Boston was looking to break out against a pitcher in Kyle Bradish making his major-league debut. The righty struck out the first batter he faced, but Trevor Story still reached with the ball getting by the catcher. In typical 2022 fashion, that was immediately followed by a double play and ultimately ended with a scoreless inning.
But in the second, there actually was something of a breakout. Enrique Hernández got things started with a leadoff single, and a couple batters later Christian Arroyo — playing for J.D. Martinez at DH — had a much-needed big swing. Coming into this game, the Red Sox hadn’t homered in six games, their longest streak in 21 years. It ended here, with Arroyo punishing a fastball out and over the plate for a two-run homer to give Boston the 2-0 lead. They’d catch a break in that inning as well, with Jackie Bradley Jr. getting on with a single before Christian Vázquez poked a base hit into right field. It should have just been a single, but Trey Mancini misplayed it and allowed it to get by, giving Bradley a chance to come all the way around and add a run onto that lead.
Unfortunately, the Red Sox have had a trend this season of getting hot for an inning and then going quiet from there, and that’s exactly what happened after the second inning. Aside from a Rafael Devers two-out double in the third, Boston’s offense didn’t get another baserunner through the seventh.
So that meant it was still a 3-0 game for Houck in the fifth, and when he gave up a single to the first batter he faced the Orioles had two men on with nobody out. It was a big spot in the game, and Houck got the ground ball he needed, with a 4-6-3 double play paving the way for a scoreless inning.
The righty then cruised through the sixth, but there was more trouble in the seventh. This time he followed a leadoff single with a walk to again have two men on with nobody out. Houck came back from there with two big walks on a ground out and strikeout, but a second walk of the inning loaded the bases for pinch hitter Rougned Odor. That wasn’t a great matchup for Baltimore with Odor’s lack of discipline, but it worked out for the Red Sox when he went down swinging to leave them loaded and keep the score at 3-0.
That was still the score heading into the eighth, with Jake Diekman getting the ball for the Red Sox in the bottom half. He had no issues whatsoever, retiring the side in order. Alex Cora then turned to Hansel Robles for the final three outs. He didn’t quite get the start he was looking for, with Ryan Mountcastle unleashing on a middle-in fastball and putting it out to the newly pushed back left field for a no doubt solo shot to make it a 3-1 game.
That was followed with a base hit, and suddenly the tying run was stepping to the plate and there was still nobody out. In the midst of that at bat, Robles balked — the second time he’s done that in the last week or two — to move the runner to second. Fortunately, Robles got the next two batters before Cora went out and brought on Matt Strahm for the final out. The southpaw walked the first batter he faced before finally ending what was a slog of a ninth with a strikeout, giving the Red Sox the 3-1 win.
The Red Sox now look to clinch a much-needed series win on Saturday. They’ll have Nathan Eovaldi on the mound for that one, with Spenser Watkins going for Baltimore.