BOSTON — The Baltimore Orioles have one of the American League’s deepest and most talented lineups, and that was evident in their 7-4 victory over the Red Sox in Game 2 of Saturday’s day/night doubleheader at Fenway Park.
After struggling to score in a 3-2 loss in the afternoon, the Orioles bats woke up in the nightcap with 16 hits and two home runs. Chris Davis was the only Baltimore starter who failed to collect a single hit.
The Orioles opened the scoring in the fourth inning when catcher Nick Hundley hit a home run to deep center field, giving his team a 2-0 advantage. The Red Sox scored four runs in the bottom of the fourth, but the Orioles quickly struck back with Nelson Cruz’s 27th home run of the season (he’s tied with Chicago’s Jose Abreu for the AL lead) in the fifth inning. Cruz tallied a career-high five hits, including a home run and two doubles. He nearly hit for the cycle but was thrown out at third base after doubling to deep right in the eighth inning.
“He’s swinging a hot bat,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said of Cruz’s performance. “He looks strong.”
The sixth inning was where it fell apart for Boston.
Baltimore pounded Red Sox starter John Lackey, as well as relievers Burke Badenhop and Tommy Layne with four hits and two walks that resulted in four runs. All four of those hits were singles, but the Orioles were opportunistic on the basepaths and got two runs on defensive mistakes (an error on Daniel Nava in right field and Brock Holt misplaying a one-hopper at third base).
“(The Orioles) did a good job of staying through the middle of the field and into right center with their approach,” Farrell said.
“Because (Lackey) throws a lot of strikes, it’s not uncommon for those types of pitchers to see some home runs in their linescore. Opposing hitters know that he’s going to be on the plate.”
The Orioles rank 11th in the majors in runs scored (369), third in batting average (.266) and fourth in slugging percentage (.424). They have scored five or more runs in six of their last seven games, resulting in five wins during that span. This offensive success has vaulted Baltimore into first place in the AL East with less than half of the regular season remaining.
For Baltimore to win the division and earn a postseason berth for the first time since 2012, its offense must continue to bail out the team’s mediocre and inconsistent pitching.
The Orioles’ 35 quality starts are 15 fewer than the Detroit Tigers and 19 fewer than the Oakland Athletics (the other two division leaders). Wei-Yin Chen is the only Baltimore pitcher with at least eight wins, and he’s one of just three players on the staff with more than four victories.
Saturday night’s win was a good example of how the Orioles need to play to finish the regular season strong, and with third baseman Manny Machado healthy and back from a five-game suspension, Baltimore might be ready to take off and create some distance in the AL East.