Nelson Cruz and the O’s defeat the Red Sox, 7-4


John Lackey and the Red Sox bullpen could not hold a 4-2 fifth inning lead, losing the nightcap of a weather-induced day-night doubleheader, 7-4. It was something of a see-saw battle, both teams having trouble taking advantage of opportunities.

The fourth inning was the beginning of the scoring. Nick Hundley homered to center to score Manny Machado who had singled. Lackey was able to escape further damage in that inning. In the bottom of the fourth, the sixth walk by Ubaldo Jimenez was one that finally hurt him. Stephen Drew homered for a second straight game to tie the game up at 2. It appeared Mookie Betts was going to kill the rally, getting thrown out at second after singling to send A.J. Pierzynski to third. Brock Holt picked him up, doubling to left to give the Red Sox the lead. Daniel Nava followed with another single and the Red Sox had a 4-2 lead.

The shutdown inning is something Red Sox pitchers have had trouble this year. Tonight was nothing different as Nelson Cruz homered (one of his five hits, along with two doubles and two singles) in the top of the fifth to cut the deficit to 4-3. In the bottom of the fifth, David Ortiz led off with a double and an add-on rally seemed imminent. This was the last offense of the day for the Red Sox, however. Ortiz was cut down trying to advance to third on a Mike Napoli groundout and from then on the Red Sox went in order.

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The pivotal point in the game came in the top of the sixth. After a strikeout to begin the inning, his 11th and last of the game, Lackey gave up a single to Jonathan Schoop. The next batter, Nick Markakis‘ at-bat proved to be Lackey’s downfall. On the 10th pitch of the at-bat, Markakis drew a walk which ended Lackey’s night at 120 pitches. The usually reliable Burke Badenhop entered the game looking for his patented double play grounder and instead gave up a single to the red-hot Steve Pearce to tie the game. Adam Jones dunked in a single to right and Markakis was not trying to score until the ball caromed off Nava’s glove in right field for an error and the Orioles had a lead that would give them the win. Cruz hit a topspin grounder that Holt could not handle off the lip of the grass at third to score another run. The final run would score on a dribbler to third that Holt could only record the out at third. So, the final two runs scored on infield grounders.

Essentially, the game was over after Ortiz’ hit in the fifth. Orioles pitchers retired the final fifteen Red Sox hitters in order. All of the Red Sox six hits were over the course of eight hitters in the fourth and fifth, one of whom (Betts) ran into an out at second. Red Sox fans are renowned for their pessimism, but in this case, it might be well-founded. Winnable games cannot be allowed to slip away against a team they are chasing like this one did. The sooner the team starts looking toward to 2015, the better.