Coming off a 2-8 road trip that pushed them 5 ½ games back for the second wild card, the Orioles jumped on the first-place Red Sox early tonight and built a five-run lead through four innings.
They got rid of Doug Fister, who didn’t retire a batter in the third. They seemed to get back a little of their swagger. They were determined to win back-to-back games for the first time since Aug. 29-30.
That was before a cruel season delivered another shot to the solar plexus, with the Red Sox scoring six runs in the fifth to take the lead.
That was before Pedro Álvarez tied the score in the bottom half with his first home run since the Orioles selected his contract earlier this month from Triple-A Norfolk. And before they reclaimed the lead later in the inning. And before Xander Bogaerts led off the seventh with a game-tying home run off Donnie Hart.
It’s September baseball at Camden Yards and no good lead can go unpunished.
The game carried into the 11th inning before Miguel Castro walked the bases loaded and Andrew Benintendi grounded a two-out, two-run single into right field to give the Red Sox a 10-8 win before an announced crowd of 16,716.
The Orioles are 73-78 overall, 44-31 at home and 10-7 versus the Red Sox. They’re 12-3 in extra innings while the Red Sox improved to 14-3.
With a Twins loss tonight, the Orioles remain 5 ½ games back for the second wild card.
Castro has been scored upon in his last five outings. He struck out two batters in the 10th while retiring the side in order, but the walks - one of them intentional after he fell behind - proved to be his undoing.
Benintendi saw four consecutive changeups while running the count to 2-2. He pulled a sinker into right field.
Zach Britton survived a one-out walk in the top of the ninth by striking out pinch-hitter Hanley Ramirez and Benintendi, the latter on a slider after feeding him 96-97 mph fastballs. The Orioles put runners on the corners with one out in the top half and failed to score.
Hart retired the side in order in the sixth and manager Buck Showalter let him come back out to start the seventh. Bogaerts homered into the bullpen area, Darren O’Day replaced Hart and the game dragged along with an endless supply of relievers and bench moves.
Tzu-Wei Lin, the Red Sox’s fourth second baseman of the night, grinded through eight pitches in the 11th to draw a walk ahead of Benintendi. It shouldn’t be forgotten when passing out accolades.
Dylan Bundy kept the Red Sox scoreless for three innings before Mookie Betts’ RBI single in the fourth. Bundy was charged with all six runs in the fifth, the last three on Betts’ bases-loaded double off Mychal Givens.
Bundy hasn’t cleared the fifth inning in two of his last three starts. The six runs are one short of his career high.
Álvarez, making only his second start, deposited a Fernando Abad pitch over the out-of-town scoreboard in right field with two outs in the fifth. He admired the flight of the ball before circling the bases. But the Orioles weren’t satisfied with the tie. Austin Hays reached on Rafael Devers fielding error and Tim Beckham followed with his second double of the night for an 8-7 lead.
Álvarez had three hits on the night. Craig Gentry pinch-ran in the 10th after a leadoff single and was thrown out trying to steal in his first appearance since coming off the disabled list.
The Orioles twice loaded the bases with no outs in the first three innings against Fister. Opportunity kept knocking. They were glad to be home.
Fister began the night with a 9.75 ERA in the first inning this season and opponents were batting .327. The Orioles took a 1-0 lead on Jonathan Schoop’s fielder’s choice grounder after Beckham’s leadoff walk and Manny Machado’s single.
Fister had an 8.25 ERA in the second inning and opponents were batting .340. The Orioles scored three runs on Hays’ bases-loaded double - a ball up the middle that bounced off the bag and rolled into shallow left-center field - and Machado’s sacrifice fly.
The stats don’t lie.
A big early lead can be deceiving.
The Orioles scored in the third on Welington Castillo’s sacrifice fly off Heath Hembree and again in the fourth on Adam Jones’ two-out RBI single, but the Red Sox sent 10 batters to the plate in the fifth and moved ahead 7-6. Jackie Bradley Jr. had an RBI single on Bundy’s ninth pitch of the at-bat. Bogaerts walked to load the bases and Brock Holt drove in two runs with a single.
Holt had replaced Dustin Pedroia, who left the game in the fourth with a “nasal contusion” after fouling a ball off his face.
Richard Bleier threw one pitch to Benintendi, who singled, and Betts followed with his three-run double off Givens.
They led, they fell behind, they led again, were tied and finally fell behind again for the final time.
They rode a train home from New York last night and boarded a rollercoaster.
Showalter on Chris Davis settling for out at first base in 11th: “I’m not sure if he would have been able to get the lead out. No. We can talk about 20 different plays in that game. We had some opportunities to score more runs, too, but we also didn’t do a very good job of keeping them from under eight runs. That’s probably the key. Both clubs were challenged a little bit with pitching tonight and they pushed a couple across at the end.”
Showalter on Bundy: “I think he had good results early on, he’d probably tell you. I’m not sure about ... I thought his stuff was OK. Command was an issue for him. I thought the command was a little bit of an issue for him, especially as the game wore on. But stuff-wise, for September I thought it was OK. I think the command deserted him a little bit there.”
Showalter on whether to shut down Bundy: “No, I don’t think we’re at that point yet. Stuff’s fine, he feels great between starts, he’s getting extra days rest. As long as we think it’s beneficial for him and the club, then we’ll continue down that path. But we’re not at that point yet.”
Showalter on Castro: “He’s struggling a little bit to finish off good at-bats. He’ll get ahead and then let the hitter get back in the count. He’s had a lot of situations where the command of the fastball, he put somebody away after the changeup or the breaking ball. And he did that some. He pitched some good innings tonight to give a chance to get back into the dugout. But he had a couple days off coming in tonight.
“After throwing an inning and a third he was fine physically. The command to finish off some at-bats, you see some of the counts get in his favor. We’ve been challenged with that a lot, with putting guys away. We go from 0-2, 1-2 to 3-2 in a hurry.”
Showalter on Álvarez: “That’s a reminder of all the good things he did for us last year. It’s been a long grind for Pete. If you look at where he came from, out of Vanderbilt, where he was drafted, Pittsburgh. Really well thought of. Now he sits down there in Norfolk.
“It’s very admirable what he went through. I know his teammates really, you ask yourself could I have done that? And he did. And it’s great to see him get that opportunity. It’s like the World Series for him, I’m sure.”
Showalter on whether it’s important for Bundy to finish September: “He already has in some ways. Very much like Miguel. It’s something we really keep our arms around. You can have an issue physically getting out of your car in the parking lot. We know that. But the things you can control.
“Dylan is very mature about it. I think he trusts us and we trust him with where we are about it. Every time we want to go, ‘OK, was it something other than just (stuff)?’ Sometimes guys don’t feel great and don’t pitch particularly well, too. It also has something to do with facing a really good team, one of the best teams in the American League. That has something to do with it, too. They’re hard to get out.”