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Red Sox 8, Orioles 12: A bullpen implosion

A frustrating loss at Fenway.

Baltimore Orioles vs. Boston Red Sox Photo by Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

With the Red Sox and Orioles starting a five-games-in-four-days stretch at Fenway, Boston came out of the gates hot for the series opener on Friday. They scored four in the first and added on two more in the second to jump out to an early day. They also got a really solid start from Garrett Whitlock, who allowed just two runs over six innings. Unfortunately, we got a reminder that this bullpen is liable to implode on any given night. With an 8-2 lead in the seventh, Jake Diekman, John Schreiber, and Matt Strahm combined to give Baltimore the lead by the ninth, and that was that. This was a game that was in hand against a bad team, and frankly the kind of loss that can’t happen for a team with playoff ambitions.

More robust game notes to follow.

With the Red Sox streaking offense streaking of late, coming off a series in which they had two separate games with 16 runs on the board, they were coming back home for a long series against the Orioles and looking to jump out early and keep that momentum going. Facing Kyle Bradish, who faced Boston’s lineup in his first career start, they set the tone right away.

Enrique Hernández started the game off with a base hit into left field, and then the Orioles defense presented a little bit of help. Rafael Devers followed up Hernández’s single with one of his own, which should have just put two runners on but Anthony Santander was feeling generous. He let a pretty routine ball sneak by him, allowing Hernández to get on his horse and come all the way around from first to score, giving Boston the 1-0 lead just two batters in. After J.D. Martinez was hit by a pitch to put two on, Xander Bogaerts unloaded on a 3-2 slider right over the plate. The ball left the bat at 112 mph, traveled 423 feet, and gave the Red Sox a 4-0 lead in the first.

They got right back to work in the second as well, this time with a two-out rally. Things started when Devers kept the inning alive with a two-out single, after which Bradish lost his control and loaded the bases on a walk and a hit batter. That brought Alex Verdugo to the plate, and he got a good pitch to hit. He also did not miss it, sending it out to the deepest part of the park, settling for a ground rule double that bounced around the triangle, bringing two more runs home.

Over on the other side, Garrett Whitlock got the start looking to get his season back on track after a couple of shaky starts, with his last outing in particular looking very un-Whitlock-like. Early on he certainly looked better, working at what seemed to me to be a quicker pace and retiring each of the first nine batters he faced. But entering the fourth with the 6-0 lead, he hit his one bit of trouble in the game.

It started with a walk to Trey Mancini to break up the fledgling perfect game, and then Santander made up for his error. Sitting on Whitlock’s two-seam in a 2-0 count, he jumped on one down and in and was all over it, sending it out over the Orioles bullpen for a two-run shot, bringing Baltimore to within four.

After Whitlock worked around a couple more baserunners in that inning, the Red Sox offense answered back on the homer. Once again it was Devers starting the rally with his third hit of the game, this time a double, and then quickly coming home when Martinez contributed a two-bagger of his own, making it a 7-2 game. They’d add one more in the fifth as well with the bottom of the order getting into the mix as Franchy Cordero led off with a double and came in on a Christian Vázquez base hit.

Whitlock was able to maintain that score for two more innings, working around two more hits in the fifth before finishing his night with a perfect sixth. It wasn’t a flawless outing, but it was a step back in the right direction as he continues to transition into this new role. Unfortunately, the bullpen just didn’t have it tonight, starting with Jake Diekman. The lefty came on for the seventh with a six-run lead, and after a quick first out he gave up a base hit before issuing a walk to put two on with one out. That brought Jorge Mateo to the plate, who got a hanging slider in an 0-1 count and hit it out to left-center field for a three-run shot, suddenly making it an 8-5 game.

Diekman got out of the inning after that, bringing John Schreiber out for the eighth. He’s been outstanding, but ran into trouble in this game. He led the inning off with a walk, which is never a good thing, and Austin Hays made him pay. On a 2-1 slider that stayed right down the heart of the plate, the Orioles outfielder sent it 413 feet out to left field for a two-run shot, and suddenly Baltimore was within a run. After Schreiber finally got a couple of outs, Matt Strahm came in, and the one-run lead disappeared after a double and a single, taking away Whitlock’s chance at his first win as a starter.

With the offense now needing to get something going for the first time since the fifth, Boston got two men on in the eighth but pinch hitter Christian Arroyo couldn’t get the runner home with two outs, and the game was still tied heading into the ninth.

Strahm came back out for that inning as well, and again got himself into trouble with two straight singles to start off the inning, putting runners on the corners. He was left in to face Santander as well, which did not go well with the Orioles outfielder bringing a run home on a base hit and giving Baltimore their first lead of the day. Hirokazu Sawamura then came on, and things only got worse. He issued a walk, later threw a wild pitch, and gave up a sacrifice fly and a single, eventually ending the inning with the Orioles holding a 12-8 lead.

They now needed a miracle from the offense, which did not come. Boston went down in order in the bottom of the ninth, finishing off a terrible loss at Fenway.

The Red Sox will look to recover on Saturday with a twin bill on the docket. The first game will come at 12:10 PM ET.


Courtesy of FanGraphs