BOSTON – The wild card race remains the primary obsession within the Orioles clubhouse. Until an elimination becomes official, until the magic number makes their aspirations disappear, it will remain their No. 1 goal and why they push so hard through the fatigue and aches and pains.
Of course, there’s also the joy of finishing with a record that isn’t below .500. It hasn’t been done since 2016. And it matters.
The Orioles were denied again the chance to form the handshake line as winners for the 81st time this season. They shuffled back inside the clubhouse today, with bags packed, having lost to the Red Sox 5-3 at Fenway Park.
Kyle Stowers hit a game-tying home run in the seventh inning, but J.D. Martinez cleared the Green Monster with a two-run shot off Dillon Tate in the eighth.
With the conclusion of the penultimate road series of 2022, the Orioles head to New York, where Aaron Judge is waiting, and return home for three games against the Blue Jays that gets them to 162.
The record is 80-76 with five losses in six games, and the magic number for elimination is down to two games. They're five behind the Mariners, who play tonight.
Tate replaced Logan Gillaspie, who retired the side in order with two strikeouts in the seventh. Xander Bogaerts drew a leadoff walk, Alex Verdugo grounded to the mound for a force, and Martinez mashed a first-pitch slider.
Tate bent at the waist as the ball disappeared. And the Orioles still don't have a season series win over the Red Sox since 2017.
"It's a slider that he left on the inside part of the plate unfortunately," said manager Brandon Hyde, "but he's been great for us this year."
Mike Baumann shut out the Red Sox for the first three innings and retired six straight batters on ground balls before Martinez and Triston Casas doubled in the fourth and Kiké Hernández singled to tie the game 2-2.
Baumann gave the Orioles four innings again, allowing two runs and six hits with no walks and two strikeouts. He threw 74 pitches, 50 for strikes.
"I thought Baumann was good," Hyde said. "Unfortunately there in the fourth, pitch count kind of rose."
"That's a good lineup, a lot of respectable bats in that lineups," Baumann said. "My goal is just to keep the team close and keep the guys in the game.
"There's something to take away from each outing. At the end of the day, my main focus is to go out and attack guys."
The Orioles are learning more about Baumann, whether he can be a contributor in 2023 and if he's a starter down the road or a reliever with a big arm.
"There's been some ups and downs," he said. "I'm not too focused on that at the moment. Right now I'm just kind of taking it day-by-day and focusing on being where my feet are."
The Red Sox moved ahead in the sixth with Cionel Pérez on the mound. Verdugo led off with a single, moved up on a wild pitch, took third base on Casas’ infield hit – Jorge Mateo cut in front of Rougned Odor and threw late – and scored on Christian Arroyo’s ground ball.
Stowers’ third home run in the majors came against Matt Strahm with one out in the seventh inning. He carried a curveball 399 feet to center field, where it landed beyond the short fence and into the Red Sox bullpen.
This was only the second plate appearance and first at-bat for Stowers against a left-hander since joining the Orioles. He was hit by a pitch in his only opportunity.
"I think just for the sake of the game it's nice to come through and tie the game and give us an opportunity to keep that game going and put us in position to score another run and win," Stowers said. "As far as facing the lefty or facing the righty, I'm just trying to be ready for my opportunities whenever I get them. Whether it's righty or lefty, I believe in myself, and I think that's really all to be said about that."
Stowers had better splits against left-handers in the minors.
"It's a strength for me that I can feel comfortable against both," he said. "Obviously, I'm not always going to have success against both, but as far as confidence level going into at-bats, it doesn't change, whether the pitcher throws righty or lefty."
"I love the result, great swing on it," Hyde said. "It's not that I don't like him against left, it's just that a lot of times we have guys who are swinging the bat well against left-handed pitchers. Gave him an opportunity there and he came through."
The Orioles hit 11 home runs in the four-game series to tie the franchise record at Fenway Park set in 1998.
Stowers reached on an error with two outs in the eighth and raced to third on Austin Hays’ single off the Green Monster, but Odor grounded into a force to keep the game tied.
Adley Rutschman doubled off the iconic wall in the first inning, his 33rd of the season breaking Cal Ripken Jr.’s club rookie record in only 108 games. He’s tied Javy Lopez for most doubles by an Orioles catcher.
"I mean, obviously, Cal Ripken, he is the Orioles," Rutschman said, "so it's definitely a cool thing."
Rutschman’s 13 home runs are the second-most by an Orioles rookie catcher behind Dan Graham’s 15 in 1980.
A two-out walk in the fifth was Rutschman’s 60th of the season. Reliever Eduard Bazardo issued it after replacing Nathan Eovaldi, who was making his first start since Aug. 12.
The Orioles scored their first run today on Rutschman’s ground ball to first base after singles by Stowers and Mateo, and Cedric Mullins’ tapper in front of the plate. Casas stepped on the bag and threw home, where Stowers avoided the tag by sliding wide of the plate and reaching for it with his left hand.
Mateo scored after Casas botched Anthony Santander’s grounder near the line.
Bryan Baker retired the side in order in the fifth inning for his ninth scoreless outing in a row. He threw 13 pitches, and Hyde brought in Pérez with Verdugo and Casas due up. They both reached base.
The game was decided as Martinez circled them.
Rutschman grounded out to strand Mullins and end the game. The .500 guarantee still on hold.
"There's still some energy," Baumann said. "It's a fun clubhouse to be a part of and the guys are still fighting. We're looking to make some noise."