Boston left-hander Chris Sale was dominating the Orioles today for five innings. But in the sixth they got a reprieve when the Red Sox went to right-hander Tyler Thornburg. The O’s were saved by the fact that Sale was coming off the disabled list and Boston held him to 68 pitches this afternoon.
But they were 68 very impressive pitches.
His five scoreless innings led Boston to a 4-1 win today as the Red Sox swept this four-game series. It’s their first four-game sweep at Camden Yards since Sept. 19-22, 2016. The Orioles (35-84) have lost five in a row and nine of 11. Boston (85-35) has won 10 of 11 games and improves to 14-2 this year against the Orioles, including an 8-1 mark at Oriole Park.
Continuing his recent dominant pitching, Sale fanned 12 Orioles. For the game, the Orioles struck out 18 times. Through five innings, only three outs were made by Baltimore batters that were not strikeouts. Sale allowed just one hit and that was a Renato Núñez leadoff single in the third. He didn’t walk a batter, improved his record to 12-4 and lowered his ERA to 1.97 throwing 48 strikes and getting 15 swings and misses. His fastball averaged 97.9 mph per Statcast and topped at 99.7. He was getting called strikeouts with backdoor sliders when he wasn’t blowing O’s hitters away.
Over his last seven starts, Sale has recorded these remarkable stats: 44 innings, 22 hits, one run, six walks and 79 strikeouts. He’s fanned 10 or more in six of those games and thrown six scoreless starts in that span. Today he recorded 10 or more strikeouts for the 11th time this year and 64th in his career. Only the pitch count limit probably kept him from equaling or exceeding his career-high strikeout total of 15 in a game.
For O’s right-hander Alex Cobb, who has been throwing well lately, this was a tough-luck pitching matchup today. He went seven innings and recorded his fifth quality start his past six games. Cobb allowed six hits and two runs (one earned) with two walks and seven strikeouts on 105 pitches.
He falls to 3-15, but lowered his season ERA to a season-best 5.31. His ERA over the past six starts is 2.17.
Boston took a 1-0 lead in the first when Steve Pearce hit a hanging breaking ball out to left. It was his 10th homer and made it 1-0. In the fourth, the lead doubled. Brock Holt started that inning with a single and he scored on a J.D. Martinez double in the right-field corner. Right fielder Adam Jones bobbled the ball, allowing Holt to score from third on the E9 on Jones.
The Orioles finally scored in the eighth versus Matt Barnes. Cedric Mullins led off with a leadoff hit and later came in on Trey Mancini’s sac fly. But they stranded two there and entered the ninth down 2-1. Earlier, they had a big scoring chance in the sixth when two walks and a single loaded the bases with two outs. But right-hander Ryan Brasier came on. He struck out Mancini on a slider on the ninth-pitch of the at-bat to strand the bases loaded.
Jackie Bradley Jr.’s RBI single off Mychal Givens in the ninth provided an insurace run and they got another when Mookie Betts doubled him home for the final margin. The Orioles left eight on base over the last four innings.
So, the Orioles are swept and fall to 49 games under .500. They are 20-39 at home and 17-37 versus the American League East. They take Monday off and welcome the New York Mets to town on Tuesday for the start of a two-game series.
Manager Buck Showalter on Boston’s sweep: “What you talk about is how close the games were. They get the tack-on runs late. That’s what we did when we were real competitive. Those are the type of things you have to do. Obviously they are more than just a good offensive club. The point I would make is you see what our record is and see what their record is and all four games there were moments where we were very close to winning the game. But that’s what happens at this level, it’s a small separator. And there’s some experience factor, too.”
Showalter said Mark Trumbo might get an injection in sore knee, hopes he can play Tuesday: “I think, that’s all indications. Mark has been fighting his way through it for quite a while. Just going to try to get ahead of it with lack of activity the past few days. Hopefully we can get him back to close to normal. Nobody’s going to be normal til a month after the season’s over.”
Showalter on Cobb and Sale: “Outstanding. He (Cobb) was great. He’s been that way for a while now. He’s been solid. When you think about in time of need, with our bullpen situation, that was as good as you can expect. Alex has really got a feel for the split now. To pitch seven innings against that lineup in a day game, that’s impressive. We just couldn’t score any runs. Sale took it to a different level. The first fastball he threw today was 98, the second one was 99. He was throwing a changeup at 88, 90. Doesn’t seem fair.”
Tim Beckham on Sale: “He’s been on the DL a bit and he came off fresh. He was sharp man. He was sharp. He was backdooring the curveball over the black whenever he wanted it. Then he was reaching back and getting 99 whenever he wanted it. We didn’t get the win and myself I had a big situation (in the eighth) down 2-1 with two runners on and didn’t get the job done. Looking forward to Tuesday and putting together some good at-bats.”
Did Cobb think about how tough it would be for him pitching against Sale?: “No. You can’t think like that. Toughest lineup in baseball over there. If I start trying to worry about the starting pitcher too I’d have my hands full. Or more full than they already are. You just try to limit as much production as you can and hope the offense can put up some runs. I was able to watch some. Stuff you never see on a big league field like that. Very impressive what he is able to do with the ball. I fell on the wrong day to pitch against him.”
Cobb on pitching well in recent starts: “The results are good. I’m very happy with the way the line looks after those games, but there’s a lot of things where you look at the game within the game of pitching, and mistakes that you might get away with here and there that you know aren’t sustainable throughout the course of a season or just a long stretch. I’m missing a lot with certain things that I probably won’t say in the media. There’s things that I can get better at. That will be the fine-tuning part. Once I get that, I can’t tell you the results are going to get any better, but I’ll feel better about what I’m doing.”