Let’s just agree that Monday’s first game of the showdown between the first-place Boston Red Sox and the second-place Orioles was lackluster at best.
There was nothing much to see here, which is disappointing because the Orioles really should have seized the opportunity they were presented. For once, the schedule favored them.
The Orioles beat the last-place Tampa Bay Rays at home Sunday afternoon while the Red Sox played Sunday night and then had to fly down to Baltimore for this game. And the Red Sox were coming off a rare, four-game sweep of their biggest rival, the New York Yankees.
If any night might have had the feel of a letdown game for the Red Sox, it would have been Monday.
Yet they won, 5-2, knocking around rookie Dylan Bundy for five runs in five innings while the Orioles couldn’t solve 21-game winner Rick Porcello, who allowed just four hits and two runs in a complete-game victory.
It was the fifth straight time the 23-year-old Bundy has failed to register a quality start – and the questions about whether he may be tiring under his increased workload have to be asked.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter was asked – and he answered definitively.
“No, I think it’s about the Boston Red Sox. Dylan’s doing well. I’m real proud of him,” Showalter said. “He was probably disappointed, but he kept us engaged in it and that’s why their club’s leading (the league in hitting by about) 20 points (over) the next team.”
It felt like a playoff atmosphere – at a Triple-A stadium, maybe. Only 18,456 showed, and roughly a third was Red Sox faithful.
Afterward, third baseman Manny Machado, who pleaded with fans to come and support the club in August, didn’t bite on a question about lack of support in September.
“The guys, the fans that are here are giving us what we need and they are giving us all the support we need to go out there and win games,” Machado said. “So, to all of them that are out there, bring it each night and make us make a push for October. They’re here for us and we’re going to try and give them everything we can.”
The only true sign that this was a key pennant-race series happened between the lines. It got a little testy. In the fourth, after Porcello had retired 11 straight to begin the game, he plunked Machado with a pitch in the arm. Machado didn’t take kindly to it and he barked at Porcello, who barked back as the third baseman was escorted up the line by home plate umpire Tim Timmons.
“In the American League it’s very easy to say, ‘Oh, he wasn’t throwing at him,’ but pitchers don’t have to wear that. It hurts, OK?” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said “You all go stand in there and hammer a ball off your foot or get hit in the rib cage or wherever. There’s an initial reaction. Manny understands, but it’s not, ‘que sera sera,’ you’re happy about everything. Got on with the game. … I can understand Manny’s reaction.”
Machado said after the game that there was no friction between him and Porcello.
“I went to first base. Plain and simple. Was just walking to first. That’s it. Not much to it.
We weren’t saying anything,” Machado said. “We all know what these games are meant to be. Part of the game. We are all trying to make the postseason, every game counts and I know he doesn’t want to hit me in that situation, put me on with the power we have behind me. I got hit and I went to first base. Nothing happened.”
That’s sort of was the theme for the Orioles on Monday night. Nothing really happened.
The Orioles showed up, were down 5-1 by the fifth and then limped to a loss against a really good team.
To show that they belong in this division race, they’ll have to do a whole lot more in the next three nights.