We are finally back at .500. It certainly took us long enough. When a team reaches any sort of milestone, the typical questions is always, “How does it feel?” For this one, the answer is easy. It feels really, really long overdue. I mean, come on. It’s just .500. All that means is that you’ve won as many games as you’ve lost. It’s almost two months into the year and we have yet to win more games than we’ve lost. That says something about our team. And what it says isn’t good.
Still, reaching .500 is better than not reaching .500, so the fact that it’s pathetic that it took us so long to get here again shouldn’t technically detract from our celebrating it.
Bard was on the mound and delivered a mediocrely decent start. He lasted five and one-third innings and gave up two runs on five hits while walking four and striking out two. He gave up his first run in the first, when he loaded the bases with two singles and a walk separated only by a flyout; he was luck to escape that situation with only one run scored on a sac fly. And then he gave up a home run to start the second inning.
But something really has to be done about his efficiency if he’s going to remain a starter, because he can’t go on pitching for just five innings. It means that the bullpen has to work overtime every fifth day, it means that it erodes his durability in the long run, and it means that the opposing team gets to see more of his stuff. He threw ninety pitches in his five-plus innings. Of particular embarrassment were his two back-to-back walks in the fourth, which illustrates another obvious problem with pitching inefficiently: it puts runners on base, which you really don’t need when you’re trying to win a ballgame. How he managed to conclude his start with only two runs allowed is amazing.
Fortunately, those two runs didn’t get us down in either the short term or the long term. We loaded the basis ourselves in the top of the fourth in the same way: two singles and a walk. And we scored our run in that situation the same way they score theirs: on a play that resulted in an out. In our case, since we didn’t previously have any outs that inning, Youk scored on a double play by Podsednik, who started for the first time since 2010. We then scored again in the third to tie the game at two; Pedroia singled, and Youk walked two outs later. Then Middlebrooks doubled in Pedroia, and Youk was out at the plate to end the inning.
Neither team scored again until the sixth, when Nava launched a solo shot to right with two out. It was a slider down and in, and he was all over it. He had that ball’s number; you could tell by the speed with which it left the park. It gave us our first, and fortunately not our last, lead of the night. Then Podsednik singled, and then Shoppach launched a long ball of his own, this one to left. It was one of those line-drive home runs, also getting out of the park in a hurry.
So at that point, we were up by three. Bard began the sixth with a five-pitch strikeout and was then replaced by Miller. Ironically enough, it was Miller who melted down after that, not Bard. Miller got a strikeout but then walked a batter and gave up a home run, which shrunk our lead to one. Hill came on in the seventh and got the first two outs, and Padilla got the third.
After Nava flied out to begin the eighth, Podsednik went yard to right center field on an inside slider, the second pitch of the at-bat. This one was a little more lofty; it took a little more time to get out, but a home run is a home run, and when the ball goes out, the ball goes out. And it’s a good thing, too, because the Orioles weren’t finished. Padilla allowed a walk and a double to begin the eighth before recording the first out via strikeout, and then he allowed one run via a sac fly. But he’s lucky that it wasn’t more than one run, and he can thank Lin for that. It looked like it was going to land right in the gap between Gonzalez and Lin, right in right center field. Lin ran to that territory, dove, and caught it. It was a decidedly Ellsbury-esque catch, and we can only assume that it save the game. That catch at least saved the game from being tied; if the game were tied, who knows what would have happened?
Needless to say, Bobby V. put Aceves in after that. Aceves finished the eighth and took care of the ninth, and we won, 6-5. Five of our batters had multi-hit performances, all of them two hits each. We posted one less than twice as many hits as Baltimore with thirteen, and yet we only won by one run. That may have had something to do with the fact that we were only one for seven with runners in scoring position. Still, we had four extra-base hits, three of which were long balls, ironically enough all hit by the bottom third of the order; the bottom third of the order hasn’t hit three home runs since 2003. But as long as we got the W, and as long as we’re at least at .500, we can feel great.