BOSTON - The Red Sox put a catcher at second base today. Their starting pitcher worked an inning in relief two days ago. Their Gold Glove center fielder has the flu. Their left fielder fouled a ball off his foot yesterday and couldn’t play.
If the Orioles had a game screaming for them to win, this was it.
They still had to go out and earn it. And without their manager for the last four innings.
Dan Straily allowed only one run over five innings, Dwight Smith Jr. had a two-run homer and two-run double after twice grounding into double plays, Chris Davis homered for the first time since last August and the Orioles gained a split of the four-game series with an 8-1 victory at Fenway Park.
The Orioles are 7-10 on the season as they board their flight to Tampa. They moved past the Red Sox - and past the Yankees by percentage points - into second place in the division.
They also stayed tied with the 2009 Phillies for most consecutive games allowing a home run to start a season, the streak ending today at 16.
Davis pulled an 89 mph slider from Heath Hembree deep into the seats in right field in the eighth, his two-run shot increasing the lead to 6-1. His last home run was Aug. 24, 2018 off Zack Britton. His last on the road was July 20, 2018 in Toronto.
Brandon Hyde earned his first ejection as a major league manager in the fifth inning for arguing that Rafael Devers violated the slide rule at second base while breaking up a double play. The call was upheld upon review, bringing Hyde back out of the dugout and getting him tossed by crew chief Mark Wegner.
Steve Pearce was safe at first base as Xander Bogaerts scored to reduce the lead to 4-1.
Devers came out of his slide and made contact with Jonathan Villar, an apparent violation that was ignored. Tim Cossins handled the managerial responsibilities along with being the club’s field coordinator and catching instructor.
Only one hat required.
Hyde also was ejected as Cubs bench coach on June 23, 2018 in Cincinnati. Pitching coach Doug Brocail was tossed yesterday for arguing a series of check-swing calls.
Hyde marched toward second base umpire Jim Reynolds today and continued his argument before heading back to the dugout as fans booed. The extra out didn’t burn the Orioles. It just steamed their manager.
Straily didn’t allow a hit until Bogaerts led off the inning with an infield single, and Devers lined a single into right field. He retired the next two batters after the controversial slide and finished the day at 86 pitches in five innings.
One run and two hits allowed by a pitcher who began the day with a 19.29 ERA. The last of the rust might be mixed in with the mound dirt.
Four relievers combined for four scoreless innings to chip away at the bullpen’s 7.53 ERA, 1.75 WHIP and .312 average-against.
The Orioles have provided the opposition in four of the last six Patriots’ Day games, though rain forced a postponement last year. The teams started on time today following storms in the early morning.
The latest opportunity for the Orioles to break open a game passed again in the second inning after they loaded the bases with one out. Already leading 1-0 and in position to pile on, they bailed out Hector Velázquez with a strikeout and popup.
Velázquez walked four of the first eight batters. Seven of the first 11 reached base, including Renato Núñez, who singled off the Green Monster to score Rio Ruiz, but was thrown out trying for the double.
Smith grounded into double plays to end the first and third innings after the leadoff man reached base. Christian Vázquez started the 4-6-3 DP in the first inning in his first major league game at second base.
Vázquez normally is a catcher, but the Red Sox changed their lineup again early yesterday by switching Dustin Pedroia to designated hitter. Vázquez hadn’t played second as a professional since Aug. 15, 2010 - with Villar on the opposing team, according to Boston Sports Info.
The Red Sox already were missing Jackie Bradley Jr. (flu) and Andrew Benintendi (foot).
Velázquez was removed after three innings and 57 pitches. Marcus Walden replaced him and struck out the side in the fourth.
Richie Martin drew his second walk in the fifth inning - the leadoff hitter reaching base for the fourth time today - and he later scored on Villar’s single into right field. Smith lined a home run inside the Pesky Pole in right field to increase the lead to 4-0.
Smith’s two-run double in the ninth, the ball slamming off the Green Monster, came against Tyler Thornburg after Villar walked and Trey Mancini doubled.
Smith was a late scratch yesterday with soreness in his right leg. He didn’t need any help getting around the bases today after his 310-footer sneaked around the pole.
The Orioles couldn’t build on a 4-1 lead in the sixth inning after putting runners on the corners with one out - the fifth time that the leadoff man reached. Núñez was caught in a rundown between third and home on Martin’s comebacker and Pearce made a sliding catch in left while going underneath a retreating Bogaerts.
Davis was miffed at a called strike on a 3-1 changeup from Hembree in the eighth, he hit a 408-foot home run on the next pitch and the Orioles followed the parting of the rain clouds by gaining their split.
Update: The Orioles are 2-0-1 in road series after going 3-21-2 last season.
Hyde on what he saw at second base: “I just saw the runner slide past the base and not maintain contact with the base, and I’ve seen it called so many different ways. I just totally disagree with the ruling in New York. I understand I’m going to get ejected there. I just want clarity on how that’s possible, that a guy slides past the base, doesn’t maintain contact with the base, goes up into our fielder. If Villar’s not there, he slides five feet past the base. Why isn’t that a double play and the runner go back to third base? I’ve had it called against us on the teams I’ve been with a few times, and I didn’t understand the ruling today.”
Hyde on umpires’ explanation: “There’s nothing they can do. If I argue, I know I’m getting ejected. It’s just one of those things. There’s nothing they can do. That’s what the ruling was in New York and they’ve got to go with that. I didn’t like the answer.”
Hyde on Straily’s success: “I thought Dan mixed three pitches really well. I thought he had a really good changeup today and a good slider, like usual, but I thought his pitch mix was awesome. He was totally unpredictable. He got a lot of ground balls, a lot of guys out in front. He pitched ahead to most hitters, so I just thought it was a nice pitching performance.”
Hyde on splitting here after winning series in New York: “I like the way we play the game. We’re 7-10 and it could easily be flipped around and we could have a few more wins. I like the way that we’re competing and I think our pitching staff is going to continue to improve, our bullpen guys are going to continue to improve. I like at-bats that we take and I like the defense that we play.
“We stay in games. We won two games here. We lost kind of a tough one yesterday, but I thought our guys played well this series.”
Hyde on what Orioles did well in this series: “In our two wins, the tack-on runs is enormous, so anytime you have a chance when you have a lead to extend leads, it saves your bullpen. It’s so important, it’s just so important and I love the fact that when we had the lead today we continued to battle, continued to take really good at-bats, not kind of cruise into the end of the game but actually continue to score, and that’s what good teams do.”
Hyde on Davis: “I’m sure that feels great where everybody’s ecstatic for him. He smoked that ball. I think we all saw that coming with the at-bats he’s been having and working a lot of deep counts, but I’m sure it feels great for him.”
Hyde on Smith home run going out: “I wasn’t sure, but you never know with that corner. I was yelling, ‘Get up a little bit,’ and it did, so good for us.”
Straily on his outing: “A lot better, a lot cleaner out there mechanically, a lot cleaner sequencing. Getting the pitcher-catcher relationship that I didn’t get in spring training to work with Sucre, it was nice to get out there and have a couple games in a row with him and really kind of learn each other and how we work, so things are starting to come together. But in no means are we satisfied. It’s an ongoing process and we still hope to do this 28 more times.”
Straily on feeling more like himself: “A hundred percent. Even when I came off the field Brocail was just like, ‘That’s more of what I was expecting.’ Kind of comfortable, not rushing down the mountain, not rushing through my pitches, just kind of like not letting things ...
“I was moving a little too quickly out there. He thought it was a product of being away from the game for 16 days, so coming back and just kind of slowing things down and really focusing on one pitch at a time, some of the cliché things that you’re taught as a youngster coming up through the system that I was able to put into motion today.”
Straily on whether he needed to see results today: “It helps, but at the same time that’s more of what I expect of myself each time out and what I’ve been bringing to the table, that’s a lot more of what I expect out of myself when I take the ball every fifth day. But no matter what I think it just shows me that what I was working on is working. Instead of still trying to get back to myself, I was able to just go out there and pitch.”
Straily on whether it no longer felt like spring training: “Other than having a pitch count, I think it felt more like a regular-season game where I didn’t feel like there was a leash getting ready to be pulled on. He wasn’t telling me what my pitch count was but he told me it was 80 and I went just over that, so it was right at the number, so hopefully after this one I’m just going to be let go and just get a chance to get out there and keep pitching.”
Straily on preparing for 11 a.m. start: “Well, luckily I had a few days to get ready for it. I was able to start waking up early the last few days and this morning I set my alarm clock for, like, 6. That way I was awake and ready to go by 11 a.m. When the game started it didn’t matter if it was 11 or 1 or 3 or 7, it felt like any other game out there.”
Straily on throwing more changeups than sliders: “That was pregame bullpen. It was just really good out in the bullpen and we were like, ‘Let’s just use this until it goes away.’ The kind of changeup I had today, I don’t have that every day, so I was really focused on let’s just keep throwing this one until it stops working. I just kept throwing it and it was a very successful pitch for us.”
Straily on whether he believes what works in ‘pen works in game: “No, I don’t believe that at all. Today, like I said, we’re learning each other and Sucre kept calling changeup and it just kept working after we got out there. You could tell even warming up that he was really digging the changeup, so we kept going with it. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right?”
Davis on home run: “Really good, especially considering it was the first ball I barreled up in the game. Going into today you know it’s going to be tough, 11 o’clock start. It felt good. I felt like my first at-bat I did a good job being patient, the next couple at-bats ... my second at-bat I was just kind of swinging. But it felt good.
“Any time I can contribute to a win, and not just with defense, I feels like I got a sense of accomplishment, I guess.”
Davis on what worked for him in the series: “I have no idea. I think just getting more at-bats, being in games, kind of getting a feel for the rhythm of the game. The timing was getting a little bit better, and even in the at-bats that I didn’t get a hit or get on base, I felt like I was seeing a lot of pitches. I wasn’t just going up there and hacking or taking strikes. I felt like I was solid with my approach throughout each and every at-bat.”
Davis on importance of day-to-day mentality: “Absolutely. This game is long, it’s hard and it’ll test you mentally, physically, emotionally. But you’ve got to be able to turn the page, you’ve got to be able to look forward and kind of put what happened behind you and move on. I think this team has done a great job of that so far, and it’s going to be a test for us moving forward.”
Davis on winning at Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park: “It’s huge. Any time you play a division opponent, especially in New York ... Toronto’s tough and obviously here, if you can at least halve a four-game series or win a three-game series, it’s huge. It’s huge early on, it’s big late. It doesn’t matter the time of year. In this division if you get buried early, it’s tough to catch up. For us to come here and split, it’s big for us.”