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The Red Sox attempted to avoid being swept by the Baltimore Orioles as they sent Clay Buchholz on the mound on Sunday. Unfortunately the game turned into a ridiculous 17-inning affair ending in a brutally painful 9-6 Sox loss. Darnell McDonald earned the loss after the Sox depleted their available bullpen options and were forced to use the outfielder as a pitcher. The Orioles also ran out of relief options, so the weekend thorn in the Boston side, Chris Davis, was brought on and delivered two innings of scoreless relief, picking up the victory. The drained remaining crowd at Fenway Park probably regretted sticking around for this one.
Buchholz was shaky from the beginning, surrendering solo home runs to shortstop J.J. Hardy in each of his first two at bats. They were Hardy’s fifth and sixth long balls of the season, each traveling to the Green Monster in left field. The early two runs immediately made the home crowd restless, as the Orioles had been using the long ball throughout the series against poor Sox pitching.
In the fourth, the struggles for Buchholz continued. He entered the game allowing at least five runs in each of his starts this season and that trend continued as he surrendered a three-run bomb to Robert Andino, extending the Baltimore lead to 5-0. Matt Wieters and Mark Reynolds scored on the homer after each received walks from Buchholz. He then allowed consecutive singles and was pulled by Bobby Valentine in place of Andrew Miller, who was making his return from the disabled list.
Buchholz pitched only 3.2 innings, allowing seven hits and five earned runs. He struck out four Orioles batters but also walked four in the short outing. This season, he holds an undeserving 3-1 record with a 9.09 ERA. With the three home runs he allowed to Baltimore on Sunday, he has now allowed 10 on the season in six starts after allowing 10 all of last year in fourteen starts. Luckily for him, the Sox offense got hot after he departed, preventing him from earning a loss.
Down 5-1 in the fifth, the Sox loaded the bases for young blossoming star Will Middlebrooks, setting up a dramatic moment in his career. Middlebrooks turned on a first pitch curveball from Tommy Hunter and sent it high and deep to left, making the first home run of his big league career a game-tying grand slam. Two more base hits later in the inning chased Hunter, setting up another battle of the bullpens, which would drag on for quite awhile.
In the top of the eighth, the Orioles retook the lead against Vincente Padilla, who allowed an RBI double to Reynolds. In the bottom half of the inning the Sox responded, finally getting to the dominant Baltimore bullpen. With McDonald on third base and one out, catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia tied the game with a deep fly ball out to left-center field.
The game remained tied for the next eight innings, during which the teams combined to use eight different relievers throwing shutout baseball. Alfredo Aceves, Franklin Morales, Rich Hill, and Scott Atchison all pitched two scoreless innings each. They allowed a combined four hits, walking three and striking out four. It was certainly a victory for the effectiveness of the relief core despite the end result.
The Sox offense was quiet throughout the extra inning frames. However, the game nearly ended in the bottom of the 16th with Marlon Byrd on first base and Mike Aviles at the plate. Aviles belted a ball to left-center field which bounced to the wall, but as Byrd rounded third and headed home, the Orioles executed a terrific relay. Hardy received the throw from center and fired home to Wieters, who held on and tagged Byrd out in a hard collision.
McDonald took the mound in the top of the seventeenth, allowing a double and walk to put two runners on for Baltimore, bringing up Adam Jones. With a 1-1 count, Jones blasted a three-run homer to left, giving the Orioles a 9-6 lead. However, as Davis had pitched the previous inning, it appeared Baltimore would need their position player to hold on for the win.
Amazingly Davis did just that, though it wasn’t the prettiest outing. Ryan Sweeney singled to leadoff the inning, followed by a walk for Dustin Pedroia. That brought up Adrian Gonzalez as the potential tying run, though he was hitless in the game to that point. Davis struck him out on three pitches, leaving the Sox star 0-8 in the game. McDonald then came up with the opportunity to atone for the home run he allowed as a pitcher, but he instead hit into a double play to end the lengthy game.
So after over six hours of baseball, the Red Sox were left empty handed, being swept by the Orioles and falling to 4-10 at Fenway Park and 11-16 overall. The Orioles, on the other hand, made a statement in the series, improving to 19-9 and moving into first place in the American League East.
Tags: Adam Jones, Adrian Gonzalez, Alfredo Aceves, Andrew Miller, Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox, Chris Davis, Clay Buchholz, Darnell McDonald, Dustin Pedroia, Felix Doubront, Franklin Morales, J.J. Hardy, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Jonathan Sanchez, Mark Reynolds, Marlon Byrd, Matt Wieters, Mike Aviles, Rich Hill, Robert Andino, Ryan Sweeney, Scott Atchison, Tommy Hunter, Vincente Padilla, Will Middlebrooks