The Red Sox hoped the friendly dimensions of Oriole Park at Camden Yards (OPACY, as Orioles fans like to call it) would help them remember how to hit after dropping the last two games in Tampa in disappointing fashion, scoring just one run in their last 12 innings in losing their first series of the season. In a rematch of last Sunday’s game at Fenway, the Red Sox sent Rick Porcello (1-2, 6.63 ERA), who is trying to forget his eight run, 12 hit disaster in that game, to the mound to face Miguel Gonzalez, who won that game for Baltimore. Two out three-run homers, including a clutch eighth inning poke by Brock Holt, and pressure-filled pitching led the Red Sox, who broke out of their hitting doldrums, notching 11 hits to this exciting 7-5 victory.
Porcello started the game very quickly, striking out the first five batters, then a sixth before the end of the third inning. He ran into trouble in the fourth inning. Manny Machado notched the first hit of the day for Baltimore with one out.Jimmy Paredes followed with a line shot home run over the right field wall. The Red Sox managed to get on the board in the fifth and take the lead in one swing. After two were out, Mookie Betts drew a walk on a 3-2 pitch. Dustin Pedroia followed with a single to left field. The stage was set for some David Ortiz heroics and he did not disappoint, lofting a three run home run to right field over the outstretched glove of Delmon Young. Hanley Ramirez followed two pitches later with his own majestic shot, a few rows deep into the left field seats, to make it 4-2. Baltimore pieced together two hits in the bottom half of the fifth to cut the score to 4-3. The Red Sox looked to add to their lead in the top of the sixth but Ryan Hanigan ended the inning with a double play with two runners on.
After escaping the bottom of the sixth, the Red Sox brain trust decided to try to get Porcello through the seventh to terrible results. He walked the first batter of the seventh, but a visit from Pitching Coach Juan Nieves did not hasten his departure. It took another hit to do that. Craig Breslow was called on to get out of a first and second jam but was not able to. After a sacrifice putting runners at second and third bases, catcher Caleb Joseph was intentionally walked. Everth Cabrera‘s sacrifice fly to the warning track in right field tied the game at 4. Alexi Ogando was called on and managed to escape trouble after an undeserved walk to Steve Pearce (he should have been out after the 1-2 pitch, wrongly called a ball) re-loaded the bases. With the go-ahead run 90 feet away, Ogando blew a fastball past Machado, who had fouled off two balls tantalizingly out of the defense’s reach into the crowd.
The Red Sox’ improbable rally in the eighth inning, thanks to O’s manager Buck Showalter’s strategy, and Brock Holt, gave them the lead 7-4. Once again, after two out and nobody on, Showalter outthought himself and took out righty Tommy Hunter to bring in lefty Brian Matusz so Pablo Sandoval would have to bat righthanded, where he was hitless so far this year. Sandoval managed to work a walk. Allen Craig came out on deck to pinch hit for the lefty hitting Daniel Nava. So Showalter cleverly brought in righty killer, sidewinding reliever Darren O’Day, to face Craig. O’Day was not his sharpest though, and after Craig worked the count to 3-2, Craig hit a topspin grounder that Gold Glove third baseman Machado feebly waved as it skipped under his glove. Our hero Holt then hammered a high outside O’Day pitch high into the Maryland night into the hands of the waiting fans beyond the high right field wall for Red Sox’ second three run home run of the game.
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Usually, a three run lead in the eighth means a comfortable victory but Baltimore had other ideas. A moon shot home run by Chris Davis off formerly untouchable Junichi Tazawa made the score 7-5. Koji Uehara then rode his splitter like Paul Revere rode his horse, to overcome two singles, and strike out the last two batters for the victory.
- The Red Sox runs all came with two outs, after no one was on, courtesy of home runs, after a leadoff walk.
- Ramirez might have made his best play of the year in left field, making a running catch in foul territory, pivoting and firing a strike to second base to double up Machado who had attempted to tag up from first to second.
- Tazawa’s run was his first allowed this season.
- Porcello’s six home runs allowed lead the majors. He has allowed at least one in all four of his starts. His ERA dipped only slightly from 6.63 to 6.48. Porcello’s eight inning effort, ten days ago, remains the last Red Sox starter to pitch seven innings.
- The call on Pearce came up in Manager John Farrell’s postgame comments.Farrell called strike zone “horrific” by DeMuth. “He’s better than that.”— Pete Abraham (@PeteAbe) April 24, 2015
Porcello started tremendously, but ended with a thud as the Red Sox desperately tried to get him through the seventh inning. He was able to record outs, but only three via the groundball which is troubling. Seven strikeouts and two walks are good in themselves, but the groundball rate increased would be a better sign. A win is a win, though.
Ogando was victimized by the one poor call to Pearce, but he came back huge with the strikeout of Machado after an eight pitch at-bat. We saw Ogando’s fire as well after his jubilation following that enormous strikeout.
His three run home run broke the tie in dramatic fashion to give the Red Sox enough of a lead to hold on. This wasn’t offense, but after Hanley left the game in the top of the ninth, Holt made some sparkling plays filling in for him in left field, keeping both hits off Koji from being doubles. The second was especially important as it kept the tying run off second. Replacing Hanley in left field for defensive reasons to preserve a lead in the bottom of the ninth is a good idea that should be repeated.