Red Sox 6 – Orioles 2: Tempers flare in the final game of the series

Apr 23, 2017; Baltimore, MD, USA; Boston Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts (50) is greeted by shortstop Xander Bogaerts (2) after hitting a three-run home run against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Mandatory Credit: Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 23, 2017; Baltimore, MD, USA; Boston Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts (50) is greeted by shortstop Xander Bogaerts (2) after hitting a three-run home run against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Mandatory Credit: Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports /

 The Boston Red Sox were able to take the final game of their three-game set with the Baltimore Orioles 6-2, but not before tempers flared in the 8th.

After sputtering in the tail end of their six game road-trip, the Red Sox salvaged the final game of their series with the Orioles 6-2. The offense came out swinging early and put up a four-spot to support starting pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez. The game was essentially over after the first, however, late game fireworks added an extra dimension to their intra-division rivalry with the Orioles.

With the victory, they ended their road trip with a 3-3 record and sit 11-8 overall – 2 games back of first in the American League East.

E-Rod gives the Red Sox a much-needed six quality innings

After Drew Pomeranz and Steven Wright combined for just 8.2 innings in their respective starts to begin the series, the Red Sox desperately needed a quality outing from their starter in this one. Heath Hembree gave the three and third in relief yesterday and Joe Kelly pitched two innings the day before, leaving Matt Barnes (more on him later) and Craig Kimbrel as the only right-handed options out of the bullpen. Thankfully, Rodriguez was able to go six shutout innings and hold the O’s offense at bay.

His fourth start of the season was a marked improvement over his previous three and by game score, his rating of 71 was his best since he posted an 83 rating on September 4 last season. He started the game perfectly, retiring the first nine batters he faced with four strikeouts on 31 pitches. After losing the no-hitter on a bases-empty walk to Craig Gentry in the fourth, he sat down Adam Jones, Manny Machado, and Mark Trumbo in order to end the inning. He would eventually lose the no-hitter on a leadoff single by Chris Davis in the fifth but sat down the next three hitters he faced.

Rodriguez would, however, run into trouble in the sixth inning; walking three batters to load the bases with two outs before inducing a Trey Mancini groundout to escape the jam. In an otherwise stellar start, walks remained an issue for Rodriguez. He entered play with an awful BB/9 of 5.56 that will be elevated to 7.50 once the stats are officially recorded. With a final line of six innings pitched, six strikeouts, one hit and no earned runs, it’s hard to complain about free passes – especially since the majority came in one inning. Nonetheless, if Rodriguez is intent on developing into a consistent top-3 starter, he’ll have to keep his free passes in check.

Red Sox victory fueled by a four-run first

A lot has been made about the Red Sox’ struggling offense and rightfully so. They entered play dead last in the major leagues with just eight home runs and eighth in runs scored with 71. Their struggles have really compounded lately, as they’ve averaged just three runs per game over their last six. Aside from Chris Sale, their rotation isn’t going to put them in many spots to win a game 3-2 so if this team wants to be successful, the offense will need to start putting up runs.

Today was a different story, though. The Sox jumped out early in a four-run first inning and never looked back. Xander Bogaerts and Andrew Benintendi began the game with back-to-back singles, before Mookie Betts and Hanley Ramirez launched back-to-back home runs. Just like that, the Red Sox were playing with a rare early lead.

Even better, today’s game included slump-busting performances from a number of key hitters. Hanley’s first inning homer was his first of the year and broke a 54-at-bat power drought. In his next at-bat, he scalded a ball that was measured at 104 mph off the bat to the warning track with the bases loaded. Adam Jones was able to make the play, but it’s starting to look like Hanley’s swing is coming around.

Andrew Benintendi put together the first 5-hit game of his career, along with a run and an RBI. He was 2-for-11 before his routine day off yesterday and it’s evident that the time to reset his focus was much needed. He’s now batting .347 on the season with a .415 on-base percentage and .859 OPS. This kid is legit and is really looking like he’ll be a major factor in the club’s lineup this year.

Lastly, Mookie Betts went 2-for-3 with a homer, 3 RBIs, and two walks, snapping a spell in which he had hit just .125 over 16 at-bats since his first home run of the season on April 18. Big game for arguably the three biggest bats in the Red Sox lineup. When Ramirez, Benintendi, and Betts are going, there aren’t many opposing pitchers that will be able to hold this lineup off the scoreboard.

Matt Barnes seeks “retribution” on Manny Machado

Going back to the take-out slide that Machado committed on Dustin Pedroia in the first game of the series, we knew that it was only going to be a matter of time until something boiled over between the two teams. However, the way Matt Barnes handled this situation was dumb and irresponsible on a number of levels.

First, if the Red Sox wanted to get back at Machado and end the situation just give him a pitch on the thigh in his first at-bat yesterday and leave it at that. Pros understand the way it works and would have reacted appropriately. Waiting until the eighth inning in the last game of the series is bush league. Just ask Pedroia how he felt about it.

Second, and more importantly, it’s never alright to throw at a guy’s head. Yeah, the pitch missed and hit Machado’s bat and there’s no way of knowing whether Barnes intended to throw that high, but it won’t matter to the Orioles. This only escalates the feud and invites more action on the part of the O’s. Here are Pedroia’s final comments on the situation, via Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal.

"I just told him I didn’t have anything to do with that. That’s not how you do that, man…. If you’re going to protect guys, you do it the right way. He knows that. we both know that. It’s definitely a mishandled situation."

Barnes was rightfully ejected for his part in the situation and will probably face a suspension for putting a ball behind Machado’s helmet. Obviously, I’d prefer not to lose a reliever given how thin the Red Sox ‘pen is right now, but it’s hard to argue that Barnes doesn’t deserve some sort of punishment. An eye for an eye isn’t the same as a head for a knee.

The Orioles will have 14 future games in the season series to decide if they’re going to give anything back.

Minor Notes

  • Mitch Moreland went 2-for-5 and hit his second home run of the season
  • Pablo Sandoval left the game with a sprained knee and was listed as day-to-day
  • Xander Bogaerts had 2 singles and reached safely in all four of his at-bats to score twice
  • Craig Kimbrel was forced to record the final out of the ninth inning after Fernando Abad allowed a run on three hits

Next: Red Sox 2 - Orioles 4: Wright gives up a pair of HR

With the injury to Sandoval, the Red Sox are left with little depth in the infield. Dustin Pedroia is scheduled to get an MRI on his inflamed left knee/ankle Monday, Josh Rutledge is rehabbing an injury that carried over from Spring Training, and Brock Holt is on the 10-day DL with vertigo. Xander Bogaerts is capable of playing but also battling a thumb injury after sliding into second in Toronto on Friday. Infield depth will be a huge concern in the short-term.