The Red Sox blew a six-run lead against the Orioles at Fenway Park and ultimately lost a winnable game in frustrating, yet ugly fashion. Boston fell to Baltimore by a final score of 12-8 on Friday night to drop to 21-24 on the season.
As he has done so often lately, Enrique Hernandez provided an early spark by leading off the first inning with a line-drive single. He then scored all the way from first base when Rafael Devers promptly ripped a single to left-center field. Devers was able to move up to second because of an Anthony Santander fielding error.
J.D. Martinez followed by taking a 94 mph fastball off his left arm to put runners at first and second for Xander Bogaerts, who unloaded on a 3-2, 87 mph slider down the heart of the plate by sending it off the National Car Rental sign above the Green Monster for a three-run home run.
Bogaerts’ fifth homer of the season travelled 423 feet and had an exit velocity of 112 mph. It also gave the Red Sox a 4-0 lead before they had even recorded an out. An inning later, a seemingly red-hot Alex Verdugo came through with two outs and the bases loaded by lacing a 406-foot ground-rule double into the center field bleachers. Verdugo’s second hit of the night made it a 6-0 ballgame.
On the other side of things, Garrett Whitlock made his seventh start of the season for Boston. The right-hander allowed two earned runs on five hits and one walk to go along with four strikeouts over six innings of work.
Both of those Baltimore runs came in the top half of the fourth, as Whitlock issued a one-out walk to Trey Mancini before immediately serving up a two-run home run to Santander.
Whitlock gave up two more runs hits the inning, but limited the damage to two runs. The Red Sox got both of those runs back on a Martinez RBI double in the bottom of the fourth and a Christian Vazquez RBI single in the bottom of the fifth. Whitlock, meanwhile, bounced back from his rough fourth inning by retiring five of the final seven batters he faced through the middle of the sixth.
Finishing with a final pitch count of 84 (56 strikes), the 25-year-old hurler relied on his sinker 58% of the time he was on the mound Friday. He averaged 95.4 mph with the pitch in the process of lowering his ERA on the season to 3.49.
In relief of Whitlock, manager Alex Cora first turned to Jake Diekman out of the Boston bullpen for the seventh inning. The left-hander allowed two of the first three Orioles he faced to reach base before giving up a towering, 391-foot three-run home run to Jorge Mateo.
Mateo’s blast trimmed the Sox’ lead down to three runs at 5-8. In the eighth, John Schreiber ran into some long ball troubles of his own when he issued a leadoff walk to Santander that was followed by a two-run homer off the bat of Austin Hays.
The first two earned runs Schreiber has given up all season brought Baltimore back to within one run at 8-7. Matt Strahm was then called upon to end things in the eighth, but the lefty surrendered a ground-rule double to Rougned Odor. He then got Ramon Urias to hit a three-foot groundball to the left side of the infield.
Devers charged the ball and barehanded it before attempting to make an off-balance throw to first base. His throw missed the mark by a wide margin, though, and that allowed Odor to score and knot things up at eight runs apiece.
Strahm was sent back out for the ninth and gave up three straight singles, with Santander giving the O’s their first lead of the night on an RBI base hit to right field. Strahm, who was later charged with the blown save and loss, then made way for Hirokazu Sawamura, who walked the first man he faced to fill the bases for Adley Rutschmann.
Rutschmann, in turn, grounded into a force out at home plate but reached first safely to keep the bases loaded. With Ryan Mountcastle up to bat, a wild pitch from Sawamura that got between Vazquez’s legs allowed Santander to score from third. Mountcastle drove in a run of his own on a sacrifice fly before Odor put the final nail in the coffin with another RBI single.
What at one point was an 8-2 lead for the Red Sox had turned into a 12-8 deficit. That is what happens when you allow the opposition to score 10 unanswered runs.
12-8 would go on to be Friday’s final score after the Sox went down quietly in their half of the ninth. Boston is now 3-4 in games started by Whitlock this year. They are likely a better team with him in the bullpen.
Next up: Doubleheader on deck
The Red Sox will look to bounce back in a day-night doubleheader against the Orioles on Saturday. Baltimore has yet to name its starters. Boston, meanwhile, will roll with right-handers Nathan Eovaldi and Josh Winckowski, who will be making his major-league debut.
First pitch for Game 1 at Fenway Park is scheduled for 12:10 p.m. eastern time. First pitch for Game 2 is scheduled for 6:10 p.m. ET. Both games will be broadcasted on NESN.
(Picture of Matt Strahm: Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)