In a game that took nearly five hours and an extra inning to complete, the Red Sox came away with their fifth consecutive victory and a three-game sweep of the Baltimore Orioles on Sunday, as they took the series finale by a final tally of 8-6.
Making his first start of the season and first appearance since April 5th for Boston was Brian Johnson, who was just activated from the injured list this past Friday after missing more than 2 months of major league action due to inflammation in his throwing elbow.
Working his way into the fourth inning of this one, the left-hander yielded one earned run on five hits and two walks to go along with a pair of strikeouts on the afternoon.
Despite dealing with a decent amount of traffic on the base paths in such a short span of time, Johnson only gave up that lone Orioles run in their half of the third, when Keon Broxton came around to score on a one-out RBI single from Hanser Alberto.
Other than that, Johnson stranded runners at first and second to end the frame before allowing Anthony Santander and Jonathan Villar to reach with no outs in the fourth, which is the point where his day came to a close.
Finishing with a final pitch count of 70 (41 strikes), the 28-year-old hurler turned to his curveball more than 37% of the time he was on the mound Sunday, inducing three swings and misses with the pitch. He also topped out at 92.2 MPH with his four-seam fastball, a pitch he threw 25 times with Christian Vazquez behind the plate.
Given the current state of the Red Sox’ rotation with Nathan Eovaldi still shelved for the foreseeable future, expect Johnson to make his next start against the Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday if he isn’t used out of the bullpen before then.
In relief of Johnson, Colten Brewer was inserted into this contest with three outs to get in the fourth and runners on first and second.
With the help of Broxton interfering while running out a successful bunt attempt that would have plated the Orioles’ second run, the right-hander managed to escape the jam in the fourth with his team still in front. Baltimore manager Brandon Hyde, however, was ejected for arguing the ruling of that play.
From there, Mike Shawaryn got the first two outs of the fifth while loading the bases on a pair of walks and a single, and left-hander Josh Taylor, just recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket, saved him by inducing a grounder off the bat of Villar to retire the side.
Taylor also worked his way around a fielding error in the sixth in an otherwise clean inning to make way for Marcus Walden in the seventh.
Making his 28th appearance out of the ‘pen, Walden sat down three of the four Orioles he faced in his first inning of relief before running into some trouble in the eighth, where Villar led things off by drawing a six-pitch walk and eventually scored courtesy of two swiped bags and a wild pitch.
That knotted things up at two runs a piece at the time, and Travis Lakins proceeded to give that up by serving up a pinch-hit triple to the first man he faced in Stevie Wilkerson before Hanser Alberto drove him in on another RBI base knock. Just like that, the Red Sox were trailing.
Fortunately though, Marco Hernandez pulled them even in the top half of the ninth, while Brandon Workman sent this one into extras with a scoreless bottom half.
And in the 10th, after they pretty much blew this one open to 8-3, Josh Smith nearly gave it all back by giving up a pair of homers, but held on to close out his third game of the season to secure an 8-6 win for Boston.
On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against a familiar and fairly tough opponent in Baltimore left-hander John Means, who entered Sunday having given up just two total runs in two prior starts this season against Boston.
This time around, Means held his own through the first three innings, but the Sox bats finally got to him in the fourth, with Xander Bogaerts getting his team on the board by driving in Rafael Devers all the way from first on a one-out line drive RBI double to left.
Bogaerts nearly scored the Sox’ second run as well, but was hung up to dry when trying to come home on a single from Michael Chavis. Instead of scoring, the young shortstop got caught in the middle of a rundown, all while Chavis advanced into scoring position.
So, with two outs and Jackie Bradley Jr. at the plate, the red-hot outfielder went ahead and extended his hitting streak to seven games, plating Chavis from second on a run-scoring double to give Boston their first lead of the afternoon.
Fast forward all the way to the ninth, after they had fallen behind by a run yet again, and Marco Hernandez came through in the clutch by blasting a game-tying, 395 foot solo shot to center off new Orioles reliever Mychal Givens. His first homer since May 30th of 2016, which also happened to come off of Givens in Baltimore, to eventually send this contest into extras.
There, in the 10th, Devers broke the stalemate in his first at-bat against Givens, leading off the frame by depositing a 1-0 fastball 458(!) feet to the opposite field for his 11th big fly of the season.
Still in the same inning, a fielding error that allowed Bogaerts to reach safely, a Michael Chavis single, and a walk drawn by Brock Holt off Orioles reliever David Hess filled the bases with Red Sox for Mookie Betts,
Already with two hits of the day, the reigning American League MVP broke this one open with number three, ripping a two-run single to left to plate Bogaerts and Chavis to put his team up by three.
Christian Vazquez opened up that lead a little further with another two-run double to drive in the two men on ahead of him, and that would later prove to be vital.
That being the case because even though they went up 8-3 on Vazquez’s clutch two-base hit, the Orioles almost staged a rally of their own in their half of the 10th, cutting Boston’s advantage back down to two runs before Sunday’s contest ultimately came to a close with a final score of 8-6.
Some notes from this win:
Andrew Benintendi was originally starting in left field and batting second Sunday, but was scratched due to a sore left quad. That’s why JD Martinez was out in left field.
From Red Sox Stats:
Rafael Devers during his six-game hitting streak: 11-for-27 with one double, one triple, two homers, and five RBI.
Jackie Bradley Jr.’s last seven games: .357/.400/.714 with two stolen bases, two home runs, and six RBI.
For the third time this season, Michael Chavis has recorded multiple hits in three straight games.
The Red Sox swept the Orioles, as expected. Now comes the true test. We’ve seen it before from this team, they dominate an inferior opponent, then proceed to struggle against better teams, such as the Astros, Rays, or Yankees.
This time, it will be a three-game set in Minnesota against the rising 47-23 first place Twins.
Led by ex-Red Sox outfielder and first-year manager Rocco Baldelli, the Twins have taken off in 2019, and entered Sunday leading the American League in runs scored (411), doubles (149), home runs (135), team slugging percentage (.514), and team OPS (.854) among other categories.
For the opener on Monday, it will be a pitching matchup featuring a pair of right-handers, with Rick Porcello getting the ball for Boston and Jose Berrios doing the same for Minnesota.
Porcello is coming off his best start in weeks in his last time out against the Texas Rangers, and brings with him a lifetime 2.96 ERA over 13 career starts and 82 total innings pitched at Target Field.
Berrios, meanwhile, has had himself a solid 2019 thus far. That much is evident bow how the Twins are 11-3 in games he starts.
In three career starts against Boston, the 25-year-old is 0-2 with an ERA of 4.15 over 17.1 total innings of work.
First pitch Monday is scheduled for 8:10 PM EDT on NESN. Red Sox have plenty to prove as they go for their sixth straight victory.