Adam Jones — the man who was traded for Erik Bedard — is the player of the game after going 2-for-6 with a double (37), home run (31), two RBIs and two runs. Jones is going to be a star for a long time.
Aceves falls to 3-10 in another adventure-filled outing. In the postgame news conference, Bobby Valentine explains Aceves’ unpredictable performance on the mound with a Forrest Gump reference: “It’s kind of like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get.”
The same cannot be said about the Orioles. Every game, the Birds battle like their life is on the line. They now are 45-32 on the road and 7-1 at Fenway. At the end of the game, Orioles fans at Fenway could be heard cheering “Let’s go O’s” for the road warriors.
Baltimore goes for the sweep Sunday. Chris Tillman gets the start for the Birds against Felix Doubront. First pitch is at 1:35 p.m.
Could this be the Year of the Orioles?
You. Never. Know.
Mid 12th, Orioles 9-6: Three-run 12th for the Birds. Baltimore is three outs away from improving to 16-2 in extra-inning games and winning their sixth straight.
Aceves is on the hook to take his 10th loss. His line: 0.2 IP, 3 R, 3 ER, 3 H, 1 K, 15 pitches, 11 strikes. Never a dull moment with Ace.
5:11 p.m.: The Orioles look well on their way to winning their 16th straight game in extra innings. Manny Machado hits a single off Chris Carpenter to plate Endy Chavez and give Baltimore a 9-6 lead.
You Never Know. The motto fits these Birds.
5:06 p.m.: Make that 8-6 Orioles.
Aceves hits the showers. Hide the women and children. As we walks off the mound to the Red Sox’ dugout, he mad dogs the Fenway crowd, daring them to boo him. They think better of it.
5:02 p.m.: Thome breaks the tie with a ground-rule double to give the Orioles a 7-6 lead.
Aceves should consider doing some Shakespeare in the Park. He’d be a natural with his love of drama.
4:59 p.m.: Like clockwork, the erratic Aceves delivers a dramatic moment with his first batter — giving up a double to Adam Jones. Boston’s string of consecutive Baltimore hitters retired ends at 13.
4:58 p.m.: This game could get even more interesting. Aceves is now pitching for Red Sox.
End 11th, 6-6: The Energizer Bunny has nothing on this game.
4:51 p.m.: We have an Alfredo Aceves sighting. The right-hander is warming up in the Red Sox’ bullpen. Seems like a perfect time for a Wooderson tribute. Alright, alright, alright.
On Friday, our NESN Daily poll question asked: Which Boston athlete would you most like to see on Twitter? Aceves was one of the choices, along with Dustin Pedroia, Tom Brady, Kevin Garnett and Tim Thomas. Aceves was not Mr. Popular, drawing just 4.6 percent of the votes. Pedroia was the people’s choice, garnering 33.74 percent of the votes.
Mid 11th, 6-6: No soup for the Orioles. Red Sox pitchers have retired 13 batters in a row.
4:45 p.m.: The Red Sox could help the Yankees and hurt their own 2013 draft position by beating the Birds. But in the immortal words of Herm Edwards, “you play to win the game.”
The Red Sox are professionals. Winning games is their job, even if they have been less successful this year than they — or anyone who roots for them — wanted.
End 10th, 6-6: Red Sox threaten with two runners on and two outs, but they are unable to drive a run home. Get comfortable. We could be here a while.
Mid 10th, 6-6: One-two-three inning for Andrew Bailey.
Red Sox get a chance to send Fenway crowd home happy, or less miserable. Your call.
4:22 p.m.: Overheard in the Orioles’ dugout: “We have them right where we want them.”
End 9th, 6-6: Bonus coverage. Nine innings isn’t enough. The Red Sox and Orioles head to the 10th after Luis Ayala shuts down Red Sox 1-2-3.
The O’s are confident. They have won 15 consecutive games in extra innings.
Mid 9th, 6-6: Play some MC Hammer because the Orioles can’t touch Junichi Tazawa. The Japanese right-hander continues to bring heat and sets the Orioles down in order. He strikes out two, including Jim Thome, whose eight-pitch at-battle ends with a swing and miss on a 95-mph fastball.
End 8th, 6-6: Believe and achieve. The Red Sox might not have the most talented September roster in baseball history, but they’re showing major league guts.
3:52 p.m.: The Red Sox tie the game. Repeat. The Red Sox tie the game. After a two-out double by Daniel Nava, Scott Podsednik drives him home with another double. Three-run deficit erased. Red Sox 6, Orioles 6.
Mid 8th, Orioles 6-5: Craig Breslow keeps the Orioles off the board with a 1-2-3 frame. The left-hander has been a very nice addition to Boston’s bullpen. In 20 appearances, he has a 3.12 ERA over 17 1/3 innings. He also can explain DNA sequencing. So he’s got that going for him, which is nice.
3:45 p.m.: Every Red Sox player on the field is auditioning for a job in 2013. They all are giving 100 percent effort and battling hard. That is great to see. Playing in the majors is a privilege, not a right.
End 7th, Orioles 6-5: The Red Sox answer the bell. They close the gap to one run on a Podsednik double, Pedro Ciriaco walk, Dustin Pedroia infield single, and pair of Cody Ross and Ryan Lavarnway groundouts/fielder’s choices.
Give the Red Sox credit. They are not rolling over for the Orioles. They are going to make the Birds earn a win. Hey, it’s the little things.
Mid 7th, Orioles 6-3: Stand up, stretch, loosen up those vocal cords, put on your rally cap and get ready for a Red Sox comeback. OK, maybe not. But the minute a person stops dreaming, they stop living. Not sure if that’s true, but sounds about right.
3:21 p.m.: Dan Duquette has had the Midas touch all year with player personnel moves. Randy Wolf is no exception.
Wolf puts the journey in journeyman. He began his career with the Phillies in 1999 and has pitched for five different teams since 2007 (Dodgers, Padres, Astros, Brewers and now Orioles). His addition to the O’s roster is the kind of move that gives credence to the notion that the Birds are a team of destiny.
The left-hander went 3-10 with a 5.69 ERA in 25 games (24 starts) for the Brewers this season. Milwaukee released him Aug. 22. Duquette signs Wolf off the scrap heap on Aug. 31, and the veteran delivers some quality innings out of the bullpen and rotation — and wins two games.
Besides the tangible benefits, Wolf also gives the Orioles a veteran mindset and leadership in the clubhouse. He’s been in playoff races before, and that experience can help the Orioles down the stretch and into October.
3:13 p.m.: Adam Jones provides another souvenir for fans in the Green Monster seats. Orioles increase their lead to 6-3. Someone should let Red Sox pitchers know that batting practice ended four hours ago.
End 6th, Orioles 5-3: Jake Arrieta picks up where Wolf left off and sets the Red Sox down in order.
3:05 p.m.: That’s all for Wolf.
Final line: 5 IP, 3 R, 3 ER, 7 H, 2 K, 2 BB, 1 HR, 88 pitches, 49 strikes.
Wolf leaves with the lead and could win his third game with the Birds.
Mid 6th, Orioles 5-3: If the Orioles were an animal, they would be a good bull. They keep charging.
3:02 p.m.: Close the book on Cook and Hill.
Cook’s line: 5.1 IP, 5 R, 5 ER, 9 H, 1 K, 2 BB, 1 HR, 77 pitches, 48 strikes.
Hill’s line: 0.1 IP, 0 R, 1 H, 1 K, 6 pitches, 5 strikes.
2:56 p.m. Thanks for playing, Aaron Cook. Rich Hill replaces the right-hander with two runners on and one out. Ryan Flaherty greets Hill with a first-pitch triple to center field. Chris Davis, who singled, and Manny Machado, who doubled, both score, and the Orioles take a 5-3 lead.
End 5th, 3-3: Three up, three down. The game is offical now, but there’s no tying in baseball. The show must go on.
2:43 p.m.: (Warning: Links in this entry have R-rated language.) Randy Wolf is not related to Winston Wolf, but imagine if he was. How cool would it be to have Mr. Wolf as a relative? Think of all the unique problems you could solve.
Mid 5th, 3-3: Cook has settled down and has a 1-2-3-4 inning. Wieters (who else) collects his 26th double of the season, his third hit of the game. Cook retires the other three Orioles mortals.
End 4th, 3-3: If Danny Valencia keeps hitting home runs, he will be a household name and Red Sox fan favorite in no time. He now has 25 career home runs in 999 at-bats.
2:28 p.m.: Joe Sewell was the anti-Mark Reynolds. The 5-foot-6, 155-pound shortstop/third baseman played for the Cleveland Indians (1920-30) and New York Yankees (1931-33) and struck out 114 times in 7,132 career at-bats — or one strikeout every 62.6 at-bats. That strikeout/at-bats ratio is the lowest in MLB history.
2:21 p.m.: Danny Valencia makes his presence known. Following an Aviles single, Valencia deposits a Wolf pitch over the Green Monster. The four-bagger is Valencia’s first home run with the Red Sox and third of the season (he hit two with the Twins). Boston 3, Baltimore 3.
Mid 4th, Orioles 3-1: Mark Reynolds might strike out a lot (1,109 K’s in 2,928 career ABs), but when he makes contact, the ball travels. Cook found out as Reynolds hit his 180th career jack.
2:13 p.m.: Too high? Too far. Mark Reynolds turns on an 89-mph Cook fastball and blasts a home run into the Green Monster seats to give the Orioles a 3-1 lead.
End 3rd, Orioles 2-1: The Red Sox get the first two runners on base but are unable to score. Through three innings, Randy Wolf has allowed one run on three hits.
Mid 3rd, Orioles 2-1: Dustin Pedroia turns a great unassisted double play. With the shift on for Jim Thome, Pedroia sets up in short right, and Mike Aviles gets positioned on the second-base side up the middle. The Orioles’ designated hitter hits a ground ball between Pedroia and Aviles. Pedroia hustles to his right, backhands the ball in front of Aviles, races to the second-base bag to beat Wieters, pivots, jumps, and throws to first to get Thome, who is nice enough to keep the piano on his back down the first-base line.
1:53 p.m.: Matt Wieters’ swing is smoother than Miranda Kerr’s skin.
End 2nd, Orioles 2-1: If you like groundouts, strikeouts, walks and fielder’s choices, this is your lucky day. Red Sox offense is cold today. So far.
Mid 2nd, Orioles 2-1: Cook is pitching like a Rubik’s Cube at an MIT computer lab. He isn’t fooling anybody. J.J. Hardy ends the inning by hitting a flyball to the deepest part of Fenway Park in center. Scott Podsednik makes a nice running catch while backpedaling.
The long out doesn’t bode well for Cook. If he doesn’t figure things out quick, an early trip to the showers could be in his future.
1:39 p.m.: Do you want the good news or bad news first? OK, first the bad: The Red Sox are 33-44 at Fenway Park in 2012. The good? Only three home games remaining for Red Sox after Saturday.
1:32 p.m.: Cook is off to a rough start. After a two singles and a Cook error, the Orioles regain the lead. Baltimore 2, Boston 1.
End 1st, 1-1: Anything the Orioles can do, the Red Sox can do better. Well, not really. But at least Boston gets a run to tie the game. Dustin Pedroia hits a ground-rule double to deep right. Ryan Lavarnway drives him home with a single to right.
1:26 p.m.: Red Sox even the score at one in the bottom half of the first.
Mid 1st, Orioles 1-0: One of the first rules of pitching from Little League is don’t walk the leadoff batter. Aaron Cook may have forgotten that lesson and walks Nate McLouth to open the game. The leadoff walk comes back to bite the right-hander. After drawing the free pass, McLouth steals second, moves to third on a J.J. Hardy groundout and crosses home on an Adam Jones groundout. The Orioles don’t need no stinkin’ hits to score. They know how to manufacture runs.
1:11 p.m.: No player in Saturday’s Orioles lineup is hitting .300. Look at their team hitting numbers, and few jump off the page. Entering play Saturday, the O’s rank 16th in the majors in runs (657), 22nd in batting average (.247), 23rd in on-base percentage (.312) and 13th in slugging (.414).
Their pitching numbers aren’t much more impressive. They rank 18th in the majors in ERA (3.97), 22nd in quality starts (71), 19th in WHIP (1.31) and 17th in batting average against (.277).
Add up their offense and defense, and they have minus-8 run differential (the Yankees are at plus-104).
So how are the Orioles one game out of first in the AL East? Are they the David Copperfields of baseball, winning with smoke and mirrors? Not exactly. They are 15-2 in extra-inning games (ESPN Insider subscription required) and 27-8 in one-run games.
The Birds have found a winning formula: no formula. Their motto is “You Never Know.” By winning close games, they have a chance to do more than just get to October. They could be the life of the whole party.
1:10 p.m.: Showtime.
12:49 p.m.: The Nationals are headed to the playoffs without Stephen Strasburg. The team’s handling of the star pitcher remains up for debate. Rany Jazayerli wrote a fascinating piece for Grantland on why the Nationals have made a mistake by shutting down Strasburg after 159 1/3 innings and 28 starts in his first year after Tommy John surgery.
Tommy John made 31 starts and threw 207 innings in 1976, his first season after having ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) reconstruction, or Tommy John surgery, as the revolutionary procedure became known. Patient Zero, John, was 33 when he had the procedure (10 years older than Strasburg) and went on to make 351 more starts in his career and throw 2,332 2/3 more innings. His 288 wins are the seventh-most by a left-handed pitcher in major league history.
Time will tell if the Nationals made the right decision on Strasburg.
12:30 p.m.: Jacoby Ellsbury is out of the lineup for the second straight game. He reportedly has a lat injury. Scott Boras might want to get Arnold Schwarzenegger on the horn for some advice on how to deal with sore lats. The Terminator has some experience pumping iron.
12:24 p.m.: Photo caption time. What is going on here with Bobby Valentine?
11:51 a.m.: The Red Sox have another different starting lineup. By unofficial count, the combination is Boston’s 983rd this season. All of the lineup shuffling has contributed to the Red Sox not finding any continuity. Injuries, trades and other extenuating circumstances are reasons for the multitude of lineups, but Bobby Valentine also hasn’t been able to settle on a preferred spot for anyone.
Take Cody Ross, for example. On Friday night, he hit cleanup. Saturday, he’s hitting third. On the season, he has batted second (one at-bat), third (14 ABs), fourth (119), fifth (161), sixth (52), seventh (72) and eighth (19). Versatility is nice. So is predictability.
Major league ballplayers are creatures of habit. They thrive on consistency and routine, doing the same thing over and over and over again: building muscle memory with practice drills, eating the same pregame meal, wearing the same socks. Hitting in the same spot in the lineup — with the same person batting ahead and behind a player — builds trust, camaraderie and chemistry. A set arrangement, or regular pattern, creates a comfort zone. The more comfortable players are, the more confidence they have, the better they perform.
September is a time for experimentation, especially for a team with 84 losses, but batting in a different place in the lineup every day doesn’t help players find a rhythm.
11:30 a.m.: Lineups. Get your lineups. Free of charge.
Pedro Ciriaco, DH
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
Cody Ross, RF
Ryan Lavarnway, C
Mauro Gomez, 1B
Mike Aviles, SS
Danny Valencia, 3B
Daniel Nava, LF
Scott Podsednik, CF
Aaron Cook, RHP
Nate Mclouth, LF
Adam Jones, CF
Matt Wieters, C
Jim Thome, DH
Mark Reynolds, 1B
Chris Davis, RF
Manny Machado, 3B
Ryan Flaherty, 2B
Randy Wolf, LHP
8 a.m. ET: The Orioles (86-64) are fighting for a playoff spot. The Red Sox (69-83) are fighting to avoid last place.
The Orioles are 6-1 at Fenway Park this season. The Red Sox are 4-9 against the Birds overall.
The Orioles are having a magical year. The Red Sox have had a disasterous one.
Welcome to Bizarro World.
For the first time since 1997, Boston will end a season with a losing record, and Baltimore will end a season with a winning record. That’s 15 years, a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.
The two sides play again Saturday at Fenway Park after the Orioles won the series opener 4-2 on Friday.
Aaron Cook (4-10, 4.93 ERA) takes the hill for Boston and will be opposed by Randy Wolf (2-0, 5.23).
Pregame coverage begins at 12 p.m. ET on NESN. First pitch is scheduled for 1:10 p.m. Watch the game with Don Orsilllo and Jerry Remy, and follow along with us on the live blog.