Orioles pitchers had limited opponents to just two homers through the first five games of May, but the Boston Red Sox resumed the bombardment Tuesday night, hitting three home runs in a 8-5 victory before an announced 10,703 that evened the three-game series at a game apiece.
“That’s a really good lineup,’’ Orioles starting pitcher David Hess said. “That’s one that obviously was good enough to win a world championship last year.”
The ball also carried well for the Orioles — who hit a pair of homers — but Sox first baseman Mitch Moreland launched a tie-breaking three-run shot off rookie reliever Brandon Kline in the fifth inning that carried the defending world champions back to within one game of .500 (18-19) after a very frustrating start.
The O’s tried to stage a late-inning comeback, scoring twice in the eighth on an RBI double by Dwight Smith Jr. and a long run-scoring single by Chris Davis, but that would not be enough.
Hess came into the game tied for 10th in the majors in home run vulnerability and ranked sixth-lowest among American League pitchers in run support, which didn’t figure to be a winning combination against the hard-hitting Red Sox.
It didn’t take long for Boston to flex that muscle. Hess walked Mookie Betts with one out in the first inning and J.D. Martinez scorched a line drive over the left-center field fence that came off his bat at 107 mph. It was the 200th home run of his career.
That would set the tone for the evening, and the Orioles answered back in a hurry against Boston right-hander Hector Velázquez. Rio Ruiz hit a game-tying homer to right-center in the bottom of the inning and there would be a few more big swings to come.
“I thought both teams had great at-bats all night,’’ said manager Brandon Hyde, “and their defense saved a lot of runs. … They made a bunch of great plays. So I was really happy with our at-bats. I thought we battled and grinded out at-bats against really good pitching and we were just a little short.”
Hess kept the Red Sox in check for awhile, but he could not keep his pitch count down. He gave up a solo home run to Xander Bogaerts to lead off the fourth and left at the end of that inning after throwing a total of 92 pitches.
“I think there were some good things to take away from it,’’ Hess said. “Made some good pitches when it really came down to it, but I think the biggest killer is obviously the home runs and the walks. The home runs put the runs on the board and the walks drove the pitch count up, so I’ve just got to be a little bit better going forward and just make some better pitches in the strike zone and force them to put it in play.”
The Orioles were quick to tie the game again with a two-out homer by Hanser Alberto in the bottom of the fourth, only to have the game begin to unravel in the fifth.
Hess’s high pitch count forced manager Brandon Hyde to bring in Kline to start the fifth, and the heart of the Red Sox lineup was waiting for him. Betts led off the inning with a single and Kline walked Martinez to bring Moreland to the plate.
Moreland came into the game leading the Red Sox with nine homers and was second on the team with 21 RBIs. Kline was coming off a two-inning performance against the Chicago White Sox last week that earned him his first major league victory.
Kline threw three pitches — all of them mid-90s four-seam fastballs. He missed up in the zone with the first one. Moreland fouled off the second, then launched a towering fly ball over the left-center field fence.
Thanks to three scoreless innings of relief by Gabriel Ynoa, the three-run lead stayed right there and gave the Orioles a chance to get back into the game, but their eighth-inning rally fell short and the Red Sox tacked on a pair of insurance runs in the ninth.
The series concludes Wednesday night when Andrew Cashner (4-1) faces struggling Red Sox ace Chris Sale (1-5).