Bullpen still bullying the opposition (heading to the 13th)

BOSTON - The Orioles’ bullpen began the night with a 1.73 ERA in 72 2/3 innings, the lowest total in the majors.

Matt Lindstrom kept the pride alive by retiring the side in order in the sixth after replacing starter Wei-Yin Chen.

Lindstrom needed only 11 pitches to finish off the Red Sox, but manager Buck Showalter brought in Pedro Strop for the seventh. Yes, there was a little second-guessing in the press box, mostly from me. But what do I know?

Strop didn’t allow a run in the seventh after Adrian Gonzalez reached on an infield hit with two outs. And he didn’t allow a run in the eighth after walking leadoff hitter David Ortiz.

We’re up to three scoreless innings from the ‘pen tonight. The Orioles’ relievers have permitted seven earned runs in the last 56 innings.

Strop needed some assistance. Shortstop J.J. Hardy made a sensational diving catch to rob Cody Ross, and he fired the ball to first base from his knees to double off Ortiz on a close play.

Former Oriole Darnell McDonald grounded to Hardy, and we’re headed to the top of the ninth still tied, 4-4.

Troy Patton and Darren O’Day were warming in the bullpen. Now it’s Jim Johnson and Luis Ayala.

Update: Luis Ayala gave up a leadoff single in the ninth but retired the next three batters, so we’re going to the 10th inning. Yes, that’s free baseball.

Ayala hasn’t allowed a run in 13 innings this season.

The Orioles’ bullpen has lowered its ERA to 1.64 with four more scoreless innings. The last reliever to give up a run was Troy Patton last Friday.

That’s 15 straight scoreless innings.

Update II: That’s 18 straight scoreless innings, including seven tonight. This bullpen has been amazing.

Patton has two scoreless innings tonight. He just stranded Adrian Gonzalez after a one-out single.

Luis Ayala hasn’t allowed a run in 14 innings this season.

We’re heading to the top of the 13th.

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