The Red Sox got their first taste of Major League Baseball’s new extra-innings rules for 2020 on Saturday and in doing so saw their winning streak snapped at three games following a 5-4 defeat at the hands of the Orioles in 10 innings.
Martin Perez made his sixth start of the year for Boston in this one, and he put together what was without a doubt his most impressive outing as a member of the Red Sox thus far.
Over seven quality innings of work, the left-hander yielded just one earned run while scattering five hits and one walk to go along with a season-best six strikeouts on the night.
That lone Baltimore tally came in the bottom of the second, when with one out and the bases empty, Perez served up a solo homer to Pat Valaika off a 1-1, 85 mph changeup on the outer half of the plate.
Other than that one blip though, Perez really got into a groove with the help of a few nifty plays from Alex Verdugo and Kevin Pillar.
From the middle of the third up until the conclusion of the sixth, the Venezuelan southpaw sat down 11 of 13 Orioles before running into a bit of trouble in the seventh.
There, Perez put runners at first and second with one out, and then runners at second and third with two outs, prior to retiring Ryan Mountcastle and Bryan Holaday in consecutive order to end his evening on a positive note.
Finishing with a final pitch count of 94 (62 strikes), the 29-year-old hurler was more aggressive in his approach on Saturday, as he turned to his cut-fastball 46% of the time he was on the mound, inducing seven swings and misses with the pitch. He also topped out at 94.8 mph with his four-seamer, a pitch he threw 16 times.
Unable to pick up the winning decision to no fault of his own while lowering his ERA on the season down to 3.45, Perez’s next start should come against the Nationals back at Fenway Park sometime next weekend.
In relief of Perez, fellow lefty Josh Taylor got the first call out of the Red Sox bullpen for the bottom half of the eighth, and he allowed multiple runs in his second consecutive appearance after issuing a two-out walk to Hanser Alberto and getting taken deep to left field by Anthony Santander.
That rocket of a two-run home run saw Boston’s deficit get erased entirely, and Ryan Brasier had to come on to get his side out of the eighth with the 3-3 stalemate still intact thanks to the efforts of Christian Vazquez, who gunned down Andrew Velezquez at second base to end the inning.
From there, Brasier came back out for the ninth and danced his way around a two-out infield single and walk in an otherwise clean frame of work to send this one to extra innings.
In extras, Matt Barnes entered the 10th with his side up 5-4 and a runner, Rio Ruiz, already on second base, as the new rules for this season go.
Barnes, fresh off his first save in over a year on Friday, then yielded a perfectly placed sacrifice bunt off the bat of Cedric Mullins which Mitch Moreland fielded and unsuccessfully attempted to get Ruiz out at third.
With still no outs recorded and runners on the corners, Barnes proceeded to issue a wild pitch in the middle of his duel against Alberto, allowing Ruiz to score from third and knot things up at five runs apiece.
By reaching on an infield single to second, Alberto advanced Mullins 90 feet to third base, and an intentional walk of Santander filled the bases for Baltimore.
Because of that predicament, Boston brought in Jackie Bradley Jr. from center field and ran with a five-man infield from that point forward.
As cunning as that strategy may have been, it did not work out in the end, as Barnes got walked off on following a scorcher of a one-out, game-winning single from Pedro Severino.
Again, one night after picking up his first save of 2020, Barnes was charged with his second loss and second blown save of the year as the O’s took this one by a final score of 5-4.
On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against a fairly familiar opponent in Orioles veteran right-hander Alex Cobb, who held the Sox to one run in his season debut back on July 25.
This time around, the Boston bats were again held in check by Cobb, but only up until the fifth inning.
There, Bradley Jr. kicked off the scoring for his side by crushing his first home run of the year 402 feet to dead center field off a one-out, 2-1, 92 mph heater at the top of the zone from Cobb.
Jose Peraza followed that solo blast with a hard-hit, ground-rule double to left-center field that nearly left the park itself, and the second baseman was quickly driven in from second when the red-hot Alex Verdugo picked up his second extra-base hit of the contest on an RBI two-bagger that split the gap in right-center field.
An inning later, the middle portion of the Sox lineup got to new Orioles reliever Shawn Armstrong, with Moreland and Vazquez reaching on a one-out walk and single, and Kevin Pillar plating Moreland from second on a softly-hit run-scoring infield single. Just like that, the Sox had themselves a two-run lead at 3-1.
Alas, that 3-1 edge would not prove to be enough in the end, as Baltimore tacked on two runs of their own in their half of the eighth, which resulted in Boston playing in their first extra-innings game this year.
In the 10th, with Verdugo already on second since he recorded the last out of the ninth, three straight one-out walks drawn by J.D. Martinez, Xander Bogaerts, and Moreland off of Cole Sulser allowed the Sox outfielder to score from third and make it a 4-3 game.
Despite having the bases loaded with two outs to work with in the 10th, the Red Sox could not make anything of that golden opportunity against right-hander Miguel Castro, and after the Orioles walked it off in their half of the frame, 5-4 would go on to be Saturday’s final score.
Some notes and observations from this loss:
The Red Sox went 2-for-10 with runners in scoring position on Saturday. They left 10 runners on base as a team.
Alex Verdugo extended his season-best hitting streak to 13 consecutive games on Saturday. He also picked up his league-leading fifth outfield assist.
From The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier:
Next up for the 9-19 Red Sox, it’s the finale of this four-game weekend series against the Orioles on Sunday afternoon.
Right-hander Zack Godley will get the start for Boston, while left-hander Wade LeBlanc will do the same for Baltimore.
Godley has yet to face the Orioles this season. LeBlanc, meanwhile, surrendered four runs to the Red Sox in his 2020 debut back on July 26.
First pitch Sunday is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. eastern time on NESN and WEEI. Red Sox looking for the series win.