Evan Meek walked two batters and retired two in the top of the eighth today. Brian Matusz replaced him and fielded A.J. Pierzynski’s comebacker for the final out, stranding two runners and preserving a 2-1 lead.
Who led off the top of the ninth? Will Middlebrooks.
They have a past.
Middlebrooks homered twice off Hunter in two spring training games, leading to his humorous strategy for the next time they met.
“He likes fastballs,” Hunter told me. “They were not good pitches. Middle, middle. Usually a pretty good pitch to hit. I’m setting him up for the season. He’s probably going to get a couple off-speed pitches the next time up. Setting him up for the regular season, man. I want him to think that’s all I’ve got. It’s all in the chess game, right?”
“If I face him again, you can go ahead and tell him he’s probably going to get a couple curveballs and a couple changeups, and then he’s going to get a fastball about right here.”
Hunter raised his hand close to his chest.
“And then he’s probably going to get another curveball and he’s probably going to strike out,” Hunter said. “Three or four pitches, give or take one.”
Hunter threw a 93 mph fastball for strike one today. He missed outside with a 92 mph heater, then hit Middlebrooks behind the left shoulder with a 96 mph fastball to put the tying run on base.
That was not part of the plan.
Daniel Nava popped up a 2-1 pitch for the first out. Dustin Pedroia singled to center field after plate umpire Dana DeMuth ruled that he checked his swing on an 0-2 pitch. David Ortiz, 7-for-24 with three home runs lifetime against Hunter, flied to left on another 0-2 pitch. Jackie Bradley Jr. took a called third strike on a 93 mph fastball.
Game over. Orioles defeat the Red Sox 2-1.
The Orioles are 1-0, folks. What’s the magic number?