BOSTON – It was a half inning rare in form and in execution — one unlike any the Orioles have pieced together throughout a young season full of close wins.
With seven runs in the third inning Saturday afternoon — a rally that included six straight two-out hits — the Orioles quickly took the air out of Fenway Park and its announced sellout crowd of 37,581.
And with an 8-2 thumping of the Red Sox, the Orioles sealed another series win.
When the team embarked on this week’s six-game road trip to New York and Boston, places where past seasons of optimism have quietly gone to die, skeptics suggested this would be when Baltimore’s surprising start would come crashing down to reality.
Now the head-scratching resumes.
The Orioles (18-9), a team predicted by many to finish last in the AL East, have taken back-to-back road series at New York and Boston for the first time in 20 years to kick off a key 15-game stretch that includes games next week against division leaders Tampa Bay and Texas.
“It’s really set a tone,” said center fielder Adam Jones, who hit a two-run homer in the Orioles’ seven-run third. “Those teams are always tough, even if it’s early, and it’s always good to beat them because the last few years they’ve taken advantage of us. We have the series win already, but we’re hungry. We need that sweep [to] just keep the momentum going on our way home.”
The Orioles scored all seven of their third-inning runs with two outs, completing their biggest offensive inning since last May. They sent 11 batters to the plate — eight consecutive reached safely at one point — and were paced by homers from Mark Reynolds and Jones.
After Endy Chavez was thrown out at third on the front end of a double steal for the second out, Nick Markakis singled in J.J. Hardy for the first run of the inning. Jones then took a curveball from Red Sox starter Aaron Cook over the Green Monster in and onto Landsdowne Street to give the Orioles a 4-0 lead.
That set the stage for Reynolds’ second homer in the past 24 hours after 76 straight homerless at bats. Reynolds took reliever Clayton Mortensen’s two-seam fastball down the left-field line for his fourth home run in his last three games at Fenway dating back to last year.
“Two-out hits, those are the toughest,” Jones said. “And they’re also good for scoring runs, because the guys are running on contact and it allows for that. Two-out hits, they don’t’ happen often and we took advantage of them. It’s just feeding off the guy in front of you, and I think we’re just feeding off everybody.”
The Orioles tagged Cook for seven runs (six earned) on eight hits over 2 2/3 innings. Cook nearly left the game in the second inning after suffering a deep gash on his left upper shin after Davis slid into home on a passed ball, scoring the Orioles’ first run.
“That's part of the game,” Davis said. “When guys get hurt, you don't ever want to hurt anybody, but at the same time, you have to keep going after them. At the very beginning of the game, we wanted to put as much pressure on them as possible and build a big lead, and we did that. They fought back towards the end of the game, and you can't say enough about how Jason Hammel battled —again. He pitched his butt off and kept us in there for the win.”
Starter Jason Hammel turned in the Orioles’ 10th quality start in the last 12 games and his fifth in six starts.
Hammel (4-1) held the Red Sox scoreless for the first six innings before allowing two earn runs in the seventh, allowing just four hits while striking out eight and walking one.
“I felt good,” Hammel said. “I was able to establish the strike zone early, and a big inning really takes the stress out of the situation. I was able to open up the strike zone and just attack.”
Hammel, who threw a season-high 115 pitches (72 strikes), overcame a 26-pitch first inning in which he stranded runners at second and third, but he retired 16 of 17 Boston batters before Adrian Gonzalez’s infield single with two outs in the seventh. Ryan Sweeney then followed with a double off the left-field wall to score the Red Sox’s first run and chase Hammel from the game.
A night after throwing eight scoreless innings in the Orioles 13-inning win over the Red Sox, the Baltimore bullpen combined to throw 2 1/3 shutout innings, improving its scoreless streak to 21 innings.
In the seventh, reliever Darren O’ Day yielded an RBI single to Cody Ross, a run charged to to Hammel, but he stranded runners at second and third.
Matt Lindstrom came in with runners at the corners and two outs in the eighth, and he got a spectacular diving play from second baseman Robert Andino up the middle to get out of the inning. Kevin Gregg, who hadn’t pitched in eight days, added a perfect ninth.
The Orioles have now won four straight at Fenway Park and taken seven of their last eight against the Red Sox overall. But manager Buck Showalter didn’t want to get too caught up in the team’s recent results.
“This is a marathon,” Showalter said. We got way too many bridges to cross. We got a good start to May after doing some things well in April. There are some things we need to do better if we are going to continue to play the baseball we want to play. I think we are all dwelling on the one day, one day. I know its cliché-ish but if we stay in that mentality we will be OK.”