Game 46: Baltimore Orioles at Red Sox (May 19, 2018)

After having one of the most exhausting (yet incredibly fun) "relaxing" Saturdays in recent memory, by the time the Red Sox game started at 7pm I was pretty tired. My morning started when I woke up at 6:30am to prep for the day. Three of my kids had team photos in the morning, followed by my coaching my youngest daughter's team in our thrilling comeback win. I then dashed over to the other side of town to help coach the final inning and a half of my son's rec game. This was followed by getting in some work in the batting cages with my oldest daughter. I finally got home around 5pm and promptly fell asleep on the couch, waking up just in time to catch the start of the Sox game. Phew!

At least it was hot and sunny where I was Boston, it was cold and drizzly. Having sat through a few games like that at Fenway Park in the past, I was for once happy to be in my living room instead. Rick Porcello took the mound for the Sox hoping to help the team bounce back after the previous night's disappointing loss. For the most part, he was great, pitching six innings while striking out nine against three walks. He did give up three earned runs on six hits, but he kept the game within striking distance until the Sox finally broke through with some runs. The Orioles got on the board first in the top of the third when Chance Sisco doubled, advanced to third, and was driven in by a sacrifice fly from Jonathon Schoop. In the bottom of the fourth, though, Rafael Devers muscled a ball over the Green Monster to tie the game at 1. The real excitement came in the bottom of the fifth when Sandy Leon doubled, followed two batters later by Mookie Betts crushing a pitch over the Monster to make it 3-1 Sox. Andrew Benintendi immediately followed Mookie's blast with a solo shot to rightfield to make it 4-1. The Orioles made it interested when Pedro Alvarez hit a two-run shot to cut the Sox lead to 4-3, but Benintendi put it out of reach when, with Leon and Jackie Bradley on base in the seventh, he drilled a single up the middle to drive both in and make it 6-3. That's where it stayed as Joe Kelly, Matt Barnes, and Craig Kimbrel (who got the save) held serve and kept the Orioles off the board.

We've run out of things to say about Mookie this season, but I'll try. He only went 1-4 in this game, but that one hit was huge as he broke the 1-1 tie and started the momentum that resulted in the Sox pulling away for good. His average dipped a bit during the .368. He's leading the league in just about every offensive category (including a ridiculous OPS of 1.205)...and oh yeah, he plays Gold Glove defense, too. Benintendi continues to stay hot...he went 2-3 with 3 RBI and a walk. It was a quiet night at the plate for pretty much everyone else, though; the team only had six hits total, with the other three coming from Leon, Eduardo Nunez, and Rafael Devers (who all had a hit apiece). And while Jackie Bradley got on base twice via walks, he also struck out twice and looked so bad it was almost painful. It was even depressing hearing Dave O'Brien and Dennis Eckersley calls his at bats on the broadcast. He was getting blown away by straight fastballs down the middle and went down on four pitches once and three pitches the other time. They weren't even at bats where he battled...when he fought off pitches in his other at bats, he eventually walked. His average is down to .161, yet Alex Cora and the rest of us in Red Sox Nation hope he can figure it out soon because his defense is just that good.

Since the Yankees also won, the Sox remained tied with them atop the division. They've got Eduardo Rodrigeuz on the mound for the series finale and then a day off Monday before they begin the next road trip on Tuesday. One final thought from this game and on the modern game in general: the prevalence of home runs (in this game specifically, but also across the entire league in general) has really made baseball a bit boring and one dimensional, taking away a bit of the enjoyment for me. I had an interesting discussion with like-minded longtime baseball fans about it during the game which will be the basis of a separate post, but in a nutshell we all agreed that it gets a bit tiresome seeing almost every RBI in a game being due to a home run. Homers are fun and they're exciting, but they're not the be all/end all when it comes to hitting. That's why Benintendi's two-RBI single late in the game and the perfectly executed hit-and-run they had in the earlier innings were so exciting to me: in combination with home runs, THAT is real baseball. Home runs are a part of the offensive game, but there's so much more that's being pushed aside with this focus on power and "launch angle" and "exit velocity." Batters would rather take a strikeout if they can't hit a home run, and to me there's zero interest in an approach like that. As I said, this will be the focus of a standalone post later on, but I wanted to just get that off my chest a little bit.

In closing to book on this game, it's been an up and down month for the Sox since the 17-2 start, but one thing we can all say with certainty is that it hasn't been boring!