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After 820 games, the widespread speculation regarding the legitimacy of the Boston Red Sox‘s sellout streak can finally be put to rest. The longest such streak in major professional sports, both for the regular season (794 games) and overall (820 including the postseason), has officially come to an end.
In just the second game at home for the 2013 season, Fenway Park hosted just 30,862 fans for a rainy night game against the Baltimore Orioles, several thousand short of capacity. After numerous games in 2012 where Fenway Park clearly sported entire sections of empty seats, not even Larry Lucchino could fudge those numbers to make it seems like another sellout on Wednesday.
To make things worse, new closer Joel Hanrahan imploded in the ninth inning, giving up five runs (all earned) to blow a 5-3 Red Sox lead. Manny Machado delivered the devastating blow with a three-run home run over the Green Monster to give the Orioles an 8-5 victory. It was Hanrahan’s first blown save in four chances.
After Orioles’ first baseman Chris Davis led off the inning with a solo shot to center, Hanrahan retired Matt Wieters and J.J. Hardy but couldn’t record the final out to preserve the victory. Ryan Flaherty extended the game with an opposite field single to left, and after issuing back-to-back walks to load the bases, Hanrahan uncorked a wild pitch that allowed pinchrunner Alexi Casilla to tie the game. The very next batter, Machado, unloaded to complete the Orioles comeback.
Ryan Dempster pitched five solid innings before the game entered a 41 minute rain delay in the bottom of the fifth, allowing three runs (one earned) while striking out seven. Before Hanrahan’s meltdown in the ninth, the Red Sox bullpen also pitched well, as Koji Uehara, Junichi Tazawa, and Andrew Bailey combined to limit the Orioles to one baserunner (a Bailey walk in the eighth) over three innings. Andrew Miller finished off what Hanrahan could not, retiring the final batter in the ninth by striking out Nick Markakis.
Daniel Nava and Jarrod Saltalamacchia provided the offensive highlights for the Red Sox, hitting back-to-back home runs in the sixth inning to break a 3-3 tie. Saltalamacchia was 3-for-4 with 2 RBIs on the night, driving in Nava with a double in the second inning, while Nava’s home run was his third in as many games. Jacoby Ellsbury and Shane Victorino also contributed with an RBI triple and a sacrifice fly, respectively.
Orioles closer Jim Johnson retired the Red Sox in order in the ninth inning to record his third save.
The Red Sox and Orioles will square off in the rubber match of the series on Thursday night. Alfredo Aceves will make his first start of the 2013 season for the Red Sox, in place of the injured John Lackey, who was placed on the disabled list with a strained bicep. Chris Tillman will be the starting pitcher for the Orioles.