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.
The good news from Boston Wednesday: Manny Machado got to play a game against the Red Sox without one pitch sailing anywhere near him other than around the plate. The bad news: Orioles starter Kevin Gausman couldn’t resist opening the second inning by throwing the first pitch at Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts’s hind quarters.
It’s safe to say people expected a little heat between the Red Sox and the Orioles at Fenway Park this week, considering the doings of two weekends ago. But I’m not sure what happened during Monday night’s skirmish—which the Orioles won, 5-2—was quite what they had in mind.
News flash: The Royals’ bullpen is only human, after all. And the Orioles actually have pulses. If you don’t believe me, you weren’t in Camden Yards Friday night. For the eighth inning especially.
These were the Orioles who’d dropped sixteen of their previous 22, were six out of the American League wild card race, and started the bottom of the eighth in the hole 6-4. The Orioles whose manager said the team planned to win 23 straight from Friday forward.
J.J. Hardy’s two-out, down-to-the-Orioles-last-strike hopper caught Mike Moustakas right where Moustakas wanted it on the third base line. Moustakas’s high throw across the infield caught first baseman Eric Hosmer right where he wanted it. OK, a little bit high, but nothing to it. We do this kinda stuff to ‘em all throughout the picture.
Just like the only two runs the Royals would need to put on the board all day long scored on a pair of grounders and a sacrifice. Big deal. We do this kinda stuff to ‘em all throughout the picture.
Have you noticed the same two things I’m noticing about the Kansas City Royals? Thing one: They seem to have positioned themselves as giant killers. (And who knows that they won’t get a chance to be Giant killers, too?) Thing two: Contrary to swelling popular opinion, they don’t always need extra innings to make a postseason statement.
It might have shocked enough people that they dispatched the Baltimore Orioles, 6-4, in Game Two of the American League Championship Series in nine regulation innings. It probably has shocked enough people that they’re halfway toward a second consecutive sweep of a regular season powerhouse.
If you learn Buck Showalter asked the Oriole front office for a team cardiologist after Friday night’s American League Championship Series opener, try not to be too surprised. You might, too, if you were the manager whose closer opened the ninth of a tie game by walking the bases loaded before getting a run-erasing force at the plate.
The one thing Detroit Tigers fans probably fear more than anything else happened Thursday night. The Baltimore Orioles got into the Tigers’ bullpen at all, never mind while holding a one-run lead.
The one thing Orioles fans knew above all else going in was that their power game was probably their most obvious asset, assuming they didn’t run into pitchers who could tie them up. Who knew the Orioles could perform any impression of the Kansas City Royals, never mind the one they performed in the bottom of the eighth, after homering their way for the most part to that one-run lead?
Adam Jones got a few Camden Yards fans a little pie-eyed—cream pied, that is. Bryce Harper plopped a personalised Washington, D.C. Fire Department helmet on his head and took selfies with teammates. Neither man had to be told otherwise that a possible Beltway World Series loomed ahead, depending upon how the Baltimore Orioles and the Washington Nationals handle themselves when the postseason launches.
What a difference Monday makes. To Jim Johnson and to the Baltimore Orioles.
On Sunday night, Johnson got slapped around like a parakeet when he came in to try holding a two-all tie. On Monday, he and his fellow bullpen bulls stood fast enough, after rookie Wei-Yin Chen out-pitched and out-smarted out-of-retirement, wizened Andy Pettitte, before getting tired in the top of the seventh.
And the Orioles had it even with the Empire Emeritus, a 3-2 win played about as tightly as a baseball game can be played under any conditions, never mind postseason conditions that include only slightly veiled weather threats.