Change of Pace Sox 3 Orioles 1 4/8
Written by Mike Laws
Change of pace
Late rally not enough as O’s come up short in pitchers’ duel
Earl Weaver may have been the most famous exponent of the small-ball-eschewing “pitching, defense and a three-run homer” philosophy, but that doesn’t make it the exclusive domain of the Baltimore Orioles. And in the first regular-season game at Fenway Park in 2013, it was the home team that’d use the timely long ball against the O’s in what was otherwise an old-school pitchers’ duel between Red Sox righty Clay “Remember That No-Hitter?” Buchholz and Baltimore southpaw Wei-Yin Chen. In the end, unfortunately — and despite having been marginally better through six — it was the Oriole starter who’d blink first, succumbing to a Mortal Kombat-esque seventh-inning single/double/homer Fatality combo at the hands of the opportunistic Beantown crew.
(Are those chirps I’m hearing crickets? C’mon, no one played Mortal Kombat besides me?)
Well, anyway, sadly, on to the bullet points …
- The box score won’t do Chen justice, today. To say he’d avoided trouble until the tough at-bats the Red Sox strung together in the seventh would be to understate the case drastically; through six, he hadn’t allowed a runner to reach second, and hadn’t had to face more than four hitters in any single frame. And whenever a Boston batsman had gotten aboard —until the seventh, Chen had allowed two base hits and issued a pair of walks — the unfazed Taiwanese lefty bore down to defuse the situation. (One hopes Pedro Strop is taking notes.) Entering the seventh, Chen hadn’t appeared to lose anything off his fastball, nor any of that unflappable cool; after Dustin Pedroia legged out an infield single and Napoli drilled a double off the wall in left-center (doing so on the seventh pitch he’d seen in a battle-of-wills-style at-bat), Chen rallied to strike out the dangerous Will Middlebrooks, he of the three-homer performance just a day prior, with a tailing change-up. Alas, he couldn’t wriggle out of the one jam he’d find himself in all day; the next hitter, Daniel Nava, punished a rare Chen mistake for a three-run homer over the Monster and out of Fenway, chasing the O’s starter from the game. As it turned out, that’d be all the Red Sox would need …
- … because Buchholz only got better as the game wore on. As was the case with Chen, the Red Sox starter found himself in only one truly precipitous spot all day; the difference was that Buchholz was able to escape without further damage, after the Birds mounted one of their famous two-out rallies in the third, ringing up Adam Jones on a perfectly located slow curve and stranding runners at first and second. From there Buchholz cruised, issuing only a pair of walks throughout his final four innings, before being lifted following his seventh inning of work (due to pitch-count, of course, which finally reminded anyone watching that we were, in fact, in 2013).
OK, YOU’VE REDEEMED YOURSELF: Credit where credit’s due: Leading off the ninth inning of a game in which his club had looked totally listless at the dish, Jones refused to give in to Red Sox closer Joel Hanrahan, and stroked a line-drive home run over the Monster in left-center — and on a 1-2 pitch, no less. (J.J. Hardy would later double, again off the Monster, but that was where the rally fell short.) Only a few hours after receiving some harsh criticism (including from Yours Truly) for a lack of hustle in the late innings of Sunday’s finale against the Twins, it’s good to see the return of that never-say-die late fight in Adam.
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