Just when you thought there could be nothing more shocking, stupid, or staggering coming out of Fenway Park, the Red Sox and the Orioles had do go and do something completely unexpected Thursday night. They went out and played a baseball game. Just baseball. Nobody tried yet again to re-enact The Wild Ones.
Nobody threw at anyone’s head. Or any other part of their assorted anatomy. The only hitting was at the plate, the Orioles for seventeen hits worth and the Red Sox for nine. The Orioles came out with an 8-3 win. The Red Sox proved that, when they set their minds to it, they really can play baseball without pursuing delayed, brain-damaged vengeance over ginned-up slights or assaults.
“Seemed like we played a baseball game tonight instead of all the drama,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter told reporters after the game, “so we’re looking forward to getting back in that flow again.”
Maybe the news that they’ve lost knuckleballer Steven Wright for the season, depleting a pitching staff that wasn’t as deep as advertised even further, poured a little common sense into the Olde Towne Team’s thinking. Wright is about to undergo cartilage-replacement surgery and won’t be ready to return until spring training 2018.
Maybe the prospect of Chris Sale yet facing suspension for throwing at Manny Machado in the first inning Tuesday night—soiling the moment in which Sale stepped off the mound to let the previous hitter, Adam Jones, bask in a standing O from the Fenway faithful disgusted by Monday night’s few raining racist remarks (and, from one such miscreant, throwing a bag of peanuts at the Orioles outfielder)—wised the Red Sox up just a little bit more.
Maybe the idea that baseball government had to step in directly in a Wednesday conference call to tell both teams to knock it the hell off—regardless that the Red Sox had been the instigators, from the moment they ignored Dustin Pedroia’s plea that he knew Machado had no intent to spike or injure him on a hard 21 April slide in Baltimore, with two Red Sox pitchers two days later throwing at Machado four times including once at his head—gave the Red Sox pause at last.
On Thursday, Machado hit yet another home run, his third of the Fenway set, in the middle of the five-run Orioles fourth, an inning that began with the Orioles in the hole 3-1. He took the local around the bases yet again. This time, nobody among the Red Sox pitchers even thought about any kind of payback later on. Maybe they really were fed up with being the bad guys.
Why, Jones even slid hard into Pedroia in the third inning, grounding the Red Sox second baseman and team leader momentarily. And nobody went boo. Nobody hollered. Nobody prepared assault charges. Jones didn’t face a single brushback the rest of the game.
The Red Sox took that early lead on Bogaerts’s RBI single in the first and Hanley Ramirez scoring on the same play on the throw in, not to mention Pedroia’s leadoff bomb into the Green Monster seats in the third off Orioles starter Tyler Wilson. Until the fourth, the Orioles’ lone run came when Seth Smith stole home on the front end of a double steal in the third.
Then came the fourth and the Orioles landed two straight singles and worked out a walk to open, before Smith banged a two-run double with one out and, after Jones looked at a called third strike, Machado hit one 466 feet over and past the rear of the Monster seats. Run-scoring singles in the fifth, including Hyun-soo Kim scoring while Jones beat out an infield hit, made it 8-3 to stay.
Not that the Red Sox didn’t try to overthrow it. They loaded the pads with two out in the seventh on Orioles reliever Mychal Givens but Andrew Benitendi lined out to right to end that threat—even if it took late defensive replacement Joey Rickard to run the ball down and spear it the hard way, with the tip of his glove as he dove to the warning track and landed just in front of the bullpens.
“They’re the team to beat,” Machado said after the game. “We’ve got Toronto and the Yankees in the mix. This whole division, everyone’s our rival.”
All that after the Orioles’ Thursday pitching plan changed thanks to Kevin Gausman getting the too-quick hook when his meatball curve caught Bogaerts in the butt Wednesday in the first. They were forced to open their pen early, including using Ubaldo Jimenez, their planned Thursday starter who now couldn’t even be a Thursday topic.
Wilson got the word late Wednesday night that he’d get the Thursday starting assignment. He kept the Orioles in it until they could overthrow the deficit and break the game open, pitching a respectable six, while Givens and three other Orioles bulls including Zach Britton to finish pitched a combined three-hit ball over the last four innings.
The sympathy wreath of the night goes to Red Sox starter Kyle Kendrick, making his first major league start since 2015 and getting rousted for the first six Baltimore runs including that fateful fourth. It enabled the Orioles to split the Fenway set after winning two of three in Camden Yards.
In case you wondered, the Red Sox and the Orioles don’t meet again until a June-opening four-game set in Camden Yards. After that, the two don’t meet again until a late-August three-game set at Fenway. Maybe they’ll let the passages of time finish what Thursday night’s sensibilities began, starting over fresh, with only the heat of a pennant race in their minds.