After being outplayed in the first two games of this week's four-game series against the Boston Red Sox, the Orioles badly needed their offense to break out Wednesday at Camden Yards.
What ensued was one of the wildest games of this two-month-old season. The Orioles scored their most runs this year in a game that more resembled a track meet around the bases than a baseball game.
A game that included four ties and three lead changes — and a combined 15 runs over the first three innings — ended with a 13-9 Orioles victory over the Red Sox in front of an announced 20,750 at Camden Yards. The game took 3 hours, 58 minutes to complete.
The Orioles’ 13 runs were their most since scoring 14 on Sept. 11, 2015, against the Kansas City Royals. The Orioles are 4-0 when they score 10 or more runs this season.
“It’s actually quite amazing that the concentration level is what it is,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “I’m proud of the pace our guys work at, but obviously we had some trouble getting them out and so did they. Our guys just refused to be outscored tonight.”
The Orioles (29-22) entered the night losers of seven of nine games and had fallen three games behind the division-leading Red Sox in the American League East.
The Red Sox (32-21) hit five homers in the game, four off Orioles right-hander Mike Wright, including two off the scalding bat of right fielder Mookie Betts, who had five homers over the past two nights. Chris Young also hit two homers in the game.
It marked just the fourth time in club history – and first time in 16 years – that the Orioles allowed at least five homers in a game and still won.
The Orioles didn't homer Wednesday, but all nine starters reached base and the team drew a season-high nine walks. First baseman Chris Davis tied his career high with four walks.
“I like the fact we scored a lot of runs without it,” Showalter said of the Orioles not hitting a home run. "There were only a couple errors made in the game. That’s what was unusual. I looked out there and there weren’t any errors in the first six innings, it seemed like. It was like playing a full game in the first three innings.”
Wright suffered his shortest start of the season, lasting just 2 2/3 innings while allowing six runs on seven hits.
“I’m pitching in the best league in baseball right now and I’m leaving pitches up,” Wright said. “So that was the result. … Yeah, it was difficult, but I’m in the big leagues, trying to cherish it. Trying to stay positive and like I said, start making pitches.”
Slumping designated hitter Pedro Alvarez posted his second three-hit game of the season, while left fielder Hyun Soo Kim had his third three-hit effort.
Neither starting pitcher — Wright nor Red Sox right-hander Joe Kelly — made it out of the third inning. The Orioles roughed up Kelly, who was optioned to Triple-A after the game, for seven runs on seven hits over 2 1/3 innings.
Wright was replaced by long reliever Vance Worley, who inserted calm into the contest with his pitch-to-contact approach. Worley overcame some initial control problems — he issued three walks and a single to the first four hitters he faced — and allowed two runs on four hits over 2 2/3 innings.
After Dustin Pedroia's sixth-inning RBI single tied the game at 8, the Orioles scored two runs off Red Sox right-hander Clay Buchholz. Matt Wieters hit a sharp grounder with two on and no outs that went through Pedroia’s legs at second base, allowing Davis to score from second. The Orioles took a 10-8 lead three batters later on Ryan Flaherty's run-scoring groundout.
“That's when you know it's Twilight Zone night,” Showalter said of the rare error by Pedroia. “That's not going to happen. We were fortunate. Actually, when it happened I said, 'We might have a shot tonight.' That's just something that doesn't happen. He's one of the best second basemen you'll ever see. It makes everybody feel human.”
The Orioles added three more runs in the seventh on Wieters' two-run single and Jonathan Schoop's RBI single off Red Sox reliever Matt Barnes. Wieters had his second three-RBI game of the season.
Betts bopping again
As if the three homers that Betts hit Tuesday night wasn't enough, he provided an amazing encore, homering in his first two at-bats Wednesday against Wright.
Dating to Tuesday's game, Betts homered in five of seven at-bats.
“He’s on fire,” Wright said. “I mean, he’s one of the better hitters in baseball right now. He’s seeing everything. That doesn’t change the fact that he hit two pitches up, that I left up, but he’s hitting mistakes and he’s a really good hitter, a really good player right now.
Betts took the second pitch he saw from Wright over the center-field fence, then hit a 3-2 pitch from Wright into the left-field seats an inning later.
Betts' second homer came after he dodged a fastball that zipped over his head, prompting home plate umpire Doug Eddings to issue warnings to both teams.
“I just threw it too high,” Wright said. “Was I trying to go in? Absolutely. 0-2 [count], a guy that’s comfortable in the box, I’m trying to go in there. But I’d never throw at a guy’s face. That was way too high. I didn’t think a warning was necessary, but when a guy’s that hot, hit four, five home runs in two days, it has to come.”
It was the first time in major league history that a hitter homered in each of the first two innings in consecutive games, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Kim clogging the bases
After sitting against a left-handed starter, Kim was back in the Orioles' starting lineup Wednesday and continued to show his ability to get on base from the No. 2 spot in the batting order.
Kim was 3-for-5 with a walk Wednesday, reaching base in each of his first three plate appearances (a single, double and walk). Had his second-inning double not one-hopped over the center-field fence, Kim would have driven in Adam Jones to add an RBI.
“He's kind of past making the most of opportunities,” Showalter said. “He's getting a lot of opportunities. He's taking advantage of them. I'm happy for him because he's been good through everything and has a lot of respect for what's going on here. ... I asked him before he got up if he ever had four hits in a game and he said, 'Tonight.' He didn't quite get it. He had some big hits in the middle of alleys, but who didn't?”
Kim has started in seven of the Orioles' past eight games and is 10-for-26 over that stretch. He reached base in all seven games and owns a .484 on-base percentage during that time.
“The everyday play allowed me to be more comfortable up there and perform better,” Kim said through interpreter Danny Lee. “I’m not trying to keep the average [up], but I’m trying my best to make better hits out there. And definitely by seeing a lot more balls by the pitchers allows me to be a lot more adapted.”
Brach to the rescue
Right-handed reliever Brad Brach (5-0) had been extremely dependable as a bridge to the late innings, and he held the Red Sox in check in the sixth inning.
With the game tied at 8, Brach faced David Ortiz with runners at the corners and one out. Ortiz had reached base in three of his previous four plate appearances against Brach, but the Orioles right-hander induced a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning.
“Yeah, it’s one of those things, I don’t care how good a pitcher you are, your track record. It’s one of those nights you feel like you’re just trying to get every out you can,” Showalter said. “They’re all so precious. … Every out you get is closer to [the end]. When the game’s over, you kind of look around and go, ‘Is it over?’”
After tossing 1 2/3 scoreless innings Wednesday, Brach owns a seven-game scoreless streak spanning 8 2/3 innings.
The Orioles, who are 20-3 in games in which Brach pitches, went on to score two runs in the bottom of the sixth to take a 10-8 lead.