The Red Sox are statistically at the absolute bottom in the American League in reliever’s performance, yet on a cool and windy Saturday at Fenway Park that was all a statistical misnomer as the bullpen provided a shutout in an 8-0 win against the Baltimore Orioles.
Breslow shuts down O’s
The Red Sox decided to cobble together a spring training approach to the game with Left-hander Craig Breslow (0-3, 4.53) getting his first career MLB start. Breslow would – as commented by interim Manager, Torey Lovullo, – “Go until he gives up a run.” Based on how Breslow has performed that may be a risky approach, but Breslow survived the first allowing a walk and whiffing Chris Davis.
The second inning witnessed a two out threat against Breslow with a sharp single by Jonathan Schoop and a ringing double into the left field corner by Gerardo Parra. J.J. Hardy, a bit anxious, whacked a first pitch grounder to Josh Rutledge to keep the O’s scoreless.
On the O’s side of the rubber left-hander Wei-Yin Chen (10-7, 3.36) managed his own two scoreless innings with, as with Breslow, a little help from a favorably pitchers wind knocking down a few balls. But both lefties were baffling lineups with some judicious use of pedantic fastballs and some well placed curves and change-ups as the contest moved forward.
Sox take the lead
Hembree worked himself into a bit of a jam in the fifth with a little “help” from his friends on defense. With two outs Hardy lifted a fly ball into the sun in right field. Mookie Betts, defensive hero of the previous day, did a soft shoe in the outfield and the ball dropped in for a hit. Classic example of the need to review how an error is distributed. Nolan Reimold walked on four pitches, but Ryan Flaherty ended any potential damage with a routine fly out.
Walks usually have a way of causing damage and Chen became an example. With one out in the last of the fifth Brock Holt walked, breaking a streak of twelve retired in a row, and as quick as you can say Rutledge he dumped a ball into the left field corner and Holt bolted around for a run and a double for Rutledge. Blake Swihart followed with a hard single to left and Boston had runners on the corners.
A slumping Jackie Bradley followed with his second strikeout of the day for a second out and Betts followed with his own free pass – Boston had them loaded up against the suddenly shaky Chen. Dustin Pedroia, on 3-2, took a called third for Chen’s seventh K of the day and an escape of further damage.
The end for Chen
The Red Sox bullpen path was was getting a bit more worn as next in line was Matt Barnes for the sixth inning. Barnes continued the bullpen shutout and the Sox waved goodbye to the frustrating Chen.
With two outs in the last of the sixth Rusney Castillo rapped a ringing double off The Monster and Holt followed with a well placed single up the middle for a run and a 2-0 lead. The Red Sox picked up some more in the seventh.
Betts drove a double (38th) to left with one out and Swihart on with a walk. After a Pedroia pop-up Xander Bogaerts drove a splitter under the glove of Manny Macahado for a questionable error and two more runs for Boston. Travis Shaw ended the inning with a pop-up, but the Sox were up 4-0 and it was Alexi Ogando time.
Ogando didn’t last long. With one out a Flaherty infield single and a Machado walk and Ogando was lifted for Tommy Layne with Davis stepping up. `Layne was one and done as Davis popped out and the call went out for Noe Ramirez to face Steve Pearce who flied out. The Red Sox bullpen had held serve through eight innings and the Sox were up 4-0.
Red Sox put it away
The Red Sox offense was chipping away all afternoon and early evening and the eighth was no different.
Castillo looped a single to right and Holt reached on a questionable two base error under the glove of Pearce. Rutledge brought in Castillo with a soft grounder and the Red Sox went up 5-0. They were not done.
Bradley walked on a 3-2 pitch to save himself from the ignominy of another strikeout. Betts then sliced a ball to right for a ground rule double (39th) and an RBI. A Pedroia walk loaded up the bases and the O’s went to their bullpen again with Bogaerts up. This time there was no question on an error as a Bogaerts grounder went under the glove of Machado for two more runs.
The Red Sox now finished off the day of the bullpen with Robbie Ross in a non save situation.
The home season (thankfully) comes to a merciful end on Sunday when the disappointing sons of Buck Showalter start right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez (12-9, 4.16) against the promise of a positive future, left-hander Henry Owens (3-3, 4.41), taking the mound for Boston.
Game notes and miscellaneous
* First back-to-back shutouts by Red Sox since April of 2011.
* Bogaerts with a great diving stop for last out of the game.
* Ogando at 62.1 innings is the Red Sox relief innings leader.
* Entering today’s game the O’s are 4th (204) in MLB home runs.
* Two excellent defensive plays by Holt at third.
* Hat trick by JBJ with three K’s – all swinging.
* Breslow is the oldest pitcher in Red Sox history to make his first MLB start.
* The O’s have the second highest K% in the AL – 22.4%. Red Sox are 13th at 18.2%.
* Breslow had 523 relief appearances before his start.
* David Ortiz and Ted Williams are tied (9) for most 100 RBI seasons in Sox history.
* Hideo Nomo of the Red Sox pitched the first no-hitter in the history of Camden Yards.
* Machado is the current MLB leader in consecutive games played (154).
* Ortiz holds (9) the club record for most 30HR/100 RBI seasons.
* Frank Robinson of Baltimore (1966) and Carl Yastrzemski (1967) won back-to-back Triple Crowns.
* The O’s (68) have the fewest errors in MLB.
* Manny Ramirez hit his 500th home run against the O’s.
* The O’s are last in the AL in stolen bases.
* The Orioles of today were originally the St. Louis Browns.
* The last active Brownie was Don Larsen.
A surprising start for Breslow and waht was even a greater shock was the pitching line. Four innings, two hits, a pair of walks, two strikeouts and no runs with 55 pitches. Breslow was so sharp that Lovullo tossed out his pitch count limit (40)
Hembree went one inning with no runs and one hit, walk and strikeout. Barnes tossed two scoreless frames with four ground ball outs. Ogando went 0.1 with an infield hit and walk. Layne did his job with a pop out by Davis. Ramirez went 0.1. Ross finished out for Boston. Just five hits allowed by the bullpen.
Rutledge a pair of RBI. Betts had two doubles. Holt an RBI and a run and several fine defensive plays. Castillo a pair of hits. RISP 3-12. LOB – 8.
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