By Eduardo A. Encina
The Baltimore Sun
8:11 PM EDT, April 21, 2014
BOSTON -- After an unusual early morning wake-up call, the Orioles walked into a Fenway Park filled with emotion Monday morning.
As the city of Boston celebrated Patriots' Day — a statewide holiday in Massachusetts — helicopters circled overhead, and participants ran through nearby Kenmore Square for the stretch run of the Boston Marathon. Given the events of last year's marathon bombings, it was a celebration that life in New England had returned to normal.
The Orioles were obliged to play a part in the special day, even though it meant a little more than 12 hours between the end of a walk-off loss on ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball and Monday's 11:05 a.m. start.
A day after the Red Sox rallied from a five-run deficit for the victory, the Orioles held onto an early six-run lead for a 7-6 win Monday in front of an announced sellout crowd of 37,513.
“The one last night got away from us, and it started building up in the same situation again in today's game,” said Orioles catcher Steve Clevenger, who made a key defensive play to end a threat by the Red Sox in the eighth inning. “But we kept our composure and threw strikes and made plays we needed to make.”
The Orioles (9-9) escaped Boston with a split of their four-game series, and headed north to Rogers Centre for three games against the Toronto Blue Jays to complete a span of 15 straight games against American League East opponents. Their record so far in that stretch is 7-5.
Although the Orioles scored six runs in the third inning to knock Red Sox right-hander Clay Buchholz out of the game, closer Tommy Hunter needed to escape trouble in the ninth to convert his fifth save in six opportunities this season. Boston had the tying run on base in each of the final three innings, including the winning run on second base in the ninth.
“You're in the East, the best [division] in baseball,” Orioles center fielder Adam Jones said. “You're always one pitch away, especially in a one-run game, from being tied, especially with this [Red Sox] offense. They can tie the game up very, very quickly or make havoc for you. They grind it out. That's the beauty of this game. That's why we love the competition, and we stuck it out. That's all that matters to me.”
The final two games of the series here had the intensity of a pennant race in April, from the buzz around the ballpark for marathon weekend to the way Orioles manager Buck Showalter maneuvered his bullpen like it was a must-win game.
“I was talking to a couple guys in the clubhouse today about yesterday's game, and then to a couple guys today about how intense the game was,” Clevenger said. “It's emotionally draining, both mentally and physically. It's a different animal in the AL East than any other place. It's good baseball, and we're going to compete every game.”
With one out in the ninth and the Orioles clinging to a 7-5 lead, Red Sox third baseman Brock Holt reached on a infield single to second base, and Dustin Pedroia doubled high off the Green Monster. With runners at second and third, the Orioles then walked David Ortiz to load the bases and create a double-play situation.
Hunter allowed one run to score on Mike Napoli's groundout to second base, cutting the lead to 7-6. And with runners at second and third, the Red Sox could have won the game with a base hit, but Hunter then induced a game-ending groundout to first base from Mike Carp.
After the game, Hunter reminded the media that winning one-run games isn't new to this team, which still has most of the players from the 2012 club that went 29-9 in one-run games and made the postseason.
“This is a lot of those same guys from '12,” Hunter said. “We won quite a few one-run games, quite a few extra-inning games. This is not a team to ever give up on, and especially, considering the circumstances, playing last night, really late and waking up today. I'm on a pretty good team.”
The Red Sox (9-11) threatened in the eighth inning as well, down by two runs with two on and one out.
But pinch-hitter Jonathan Herrera struck out against Orioles left-hander Brian Matusz, and Clevenger ran from the plate to between second and third base to catch Xander Bogaerts in an inning-ending rundown. After the strikeout, Bogaerts ended up with nowhere to go as the trail runner, Daniel Nava, took second base.
“I knew they were going to be aggressive on the bases there, and we called an inside move first and kind of got him thinking,” Clevenger said. “I think Bogaerts was not so aggressive after that, but I don't think Nava got the point over there at first, so they kind of ran up each other's backs, and we just ran after them to get them in a rundown basically.”
Showalter said about the rundown: “Pretty much as textbook as you want to see it done.”
The Orioles didn't show any sign of fatigue early, jumping on Buchholz for six runs in a third inning in which the club sent nine hitters to the plate. They had seven hits, including six singles off Buchholz, in the inning.
The first five hitters of the inning singled against Buchholz (0-2), including run-scoring hits by Nick Markakis, Nelson Cruz and Chris Davis. After Adam Jones' RBI groundout, Clevenger plated another run on a double that bounced around in the right-field corner. Clevenger scored on Jonathan Schoop's RBI single to put the Orioles up, 6-0.
But Orioles starter Wei-Yin Chen (3-1) lasted just five innings, cruising until the Red Sox scored three runs in the fifth, forcing the bullpen to account for four innings Monday and 72/3 innings over the 24-hour span. Three relievers — left-handers Zach Britton and Matusz and right-hander Darren O'Day — worked for a second consecutive day.
After Ryan Webb struck out the side in the sixth, Britton allowed a solo homer to David Ross in the seventh to cut the lead to 6-4.
Ryan Flaherty gave the Orioles an insurance run in the eighth with a two-out RBI single to center field, but that cushion quickly went away when O'Day yielded a leadoff homer to Napoli in the bottom half of the inning.
But the rundown play got the Orioles out of the eighth. and Hunter battled through a 25-pitch ninth inning to seal the win.
“It's kind of like picking up from last night,” Hunter said. “We fell into some unfortunate circumstances last night. It just didn't go our way. Got a chance to come back and at least go .500 on the first series of the road trip. That's all you can ask for on the road. These guys did. Tip your hats to them. They played good baseball today, and we're headed to Toronto.”
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