Winning a close game in late innings is nice. Winning a close game, period, is nicer. But just plain winning at all is the nicest. Especially against the Orioles with the way they’ve been playing this year. By the way, let’s take a moment to ruminate on how strange and bizarre that really is. I think I speak for everyone when I say that if you said during Spring Training that the Orioles would be in the elite of the AL East, it would have been absolutely impossible to believe.
And here we are sitting on top of one of the division’s best teams, for one game at least. The whole thing was a pitcher’s duel right to the end. Doubront, for his part, was absolutely stellar. This was one of his best starts of the season. He pitched seven innings, gave up one run on four hits, walked two, and struck out a career-high eleven batters. His command and control were phenomenal. The end of the season is almost here, but he didn’t show it at all. He looked like an old pro. He went one-two-three in the first and fourth, and he issued one of his walks in the second and the other in the third. He allowed his one run in the fifth and was actually fortunate to limit the damage; he opened the inning by allowing a single followed by a double and then an RBI single. But he finished the inning strong with three straight outs. He went one-two-three in the sixth and gave up a single in the seventh.
So the only inning during which the O’s had more than one runner on base on Doubront’s watch was the fifth when they scored. And of his strikeouts, five were swinging, five were called, and one came on a foul tip. His fastball, changeup, and curveball were the best I’ve ever seen them from him and were absolutely on fire; they were moving when they were supposed to and not when they weren’t. He was a master. In short, he was absolutely fantastic.
Tazawa took the ball in the eighth and sent down his three batters. Bailey came in for the ninth and got into, and then fortunately out of, trouble. He induced a groundout to start the inning but then gave up a single and a double before issuing an intentional walk, which loaded the bases. But the inning ended up ending without incident thanks to a force out and a strikeout.
Meanwhile, we actually had scored first, so Baltimore’s run actually tied the game. We had two on in the first, one on in the second, and none on in the third. But Ross singled to lead off the fourth, Loney walked, Salty flied out, and Valencia grounded into a force out which scored Ross. Loney was out at second, Valencia ended up reaching first on a throwing error, and Nava singled after that, but the inning ended with Iglesias flying out.
We went down in order in the fifth and we had one on in the sixth and seventh. We scored our winning run and the last run of the game in the eighth. Pedroia and Ross hit back-to-back doubles to lead it off, and that was that. Literally, because the inning ended with three straight flyouts.
Unfortunately, Doubront wasn’t in line for the win, so Tazawa got it, and Bailey picked up the save. The final score, obviously, was 2-1. And it was sweet.
Last but not least, Fenway Park opened after the game for a special and well-deserved tribute to Johnny Pesky. Sox greats through the ages gathered to celebrate the man, the myth, and the legend. Pesky was a great man, and there was a lot to celebrate. And I have to think that Pesky would really have enjoyed Ross’s catch in the first of a ball that looked very much like a Pesky-esque home run for the Orioles. The catch looked so unlikely, and yet Ross did it right at the Pesky Pole. I think Pesky would really, really have enjoyed that.
In other news, the Pats dropped an exasperatingly close one to the Ravens, losing by the brutal score of 31-30.