It has become an early trend for the Boston Red Sox this season. Nothing comes easy for this ball club.
It was that way again Friday night as the Red Sox looked poised to cruise to a shutout win, only they had to go to two relievers in the ninth inning to hold on to beat the Baltimore Orioles, 3-1, at Camden Yards.
Out of Boston’s 21 games this season, 13 of them have been decided by two runs or fewer.
The Red Sox, who are using a closer by committee strategy, turned to Hansel Robles to close things out in the ninth inning after Rich Hill, Tanner Houck and Jake Diekman combined to throw eight scoreless innings.
Robles, who had gone the previous 23 outings dating back to last year without giving up an earned run, promptly served up a home run to the first batter he faced in Ryan Mountcastle. Robles unraveled a little more after that, allowing a single to Austin Hays before committing his second balk of the season to move Hays into scoring position.
“Hansel has been great for us,” said Red Sox manager Alex Cora as seen on NESN postgame coverage. “It just happened that today he had to grind.”
Robles then got two fly-ball outs and Cora then went to Matt Strahm. Strahm walked the first batter he faced in Anthony Santander to turn the pressure up more as the Orioles brought the winning run to the plate in pinch-hitter Chris Owings.
But Strahm hunkered down and pumped a 96 mile-per-hour fastball by Owings’ bat to finally close things out.
“We like the matchup with Santander and they obviously brought in Chris to pinch hit for Odor,” Cora said. “We like those matchups. Right here, as you guys know, there’s not a closer. We try to get 27 outs as fast as possible with the lead and (Strahm) did a good job. Santander not giving in and then he made some good pitches on Owings.”
Not having a permanent closer has certainly got the Red Sox in trouble — earlier this week Boston blew a three-run lead in the ninth to the Toronto Blue Jays — and it seems closing out games will continue to be an adventure.
Here are other notes from Friday?s Red Sox-Orioles game:
— Rich Hill delivered a fantastic outing as he pitched four-plus innings, allowing just one hit, no runs and striking out four. It was Hill’s excellent control that made all the difference as he walked none and threw 35 of his 50 pitches for strikes.
“The fastball was good tonight. Curveball had good depth to it,” Hill said as seen on NESN postgame coverage. “It’s a good lineup that they have and you just continue to keep executing pitches and stay on the attack. I think that’s the biggest thing is just continue to stay aggressive no matter what the information that we’re getting — the biggest thing is sticking to your game and understanding what you do best at this level and continue to execute.”
— Christian Arroyo’s two-run blast in the second inning snapped a home run drought for Boston. The Red Sox hadn’t hit a homer in their last six games until Arroyo took a pitch from Baltimore starting pitcher Kyle Bradish, who was making his MLB debut, over the wall in left-center field.
Arroyo said he watched Bradish’s Triple-A tape and got some key information from Xander Bogaerts to help him in that at-bat.
“Bogie, he told me, he’s got some cut and ride on his heater,” Arroyo told NESN’s Jahmi Webster following the contest. “Seeing that, I really wanted to pick a lane that I could go, my go-zone, and I went to my go-zone.”
— Boston’s offense cooled off dramatically after its three-run second inning. The Red Sox had only two hits after that frame as Baltimore pitchers at one point retired 15 batters in a row.
— Boston called up Franchy Cordero from Triple-A Worcester and immediately put him into the lineup. Cordero got the start at first base and went 0-for-4 in his 2022 debut. Cordero, who the Red Sox acquired when they traded Andrew Benintendi, struggled mightily last season with the big club, batting just .189 in 48 games. Cordero got off to a hot start this year at Worcester, leading all of Triple-A with 24 RBI in 19 games.
— For the second straight game, J.D. Martinez was held out of the starting lineup due to adductor tightness, which he re-aggravated in the series against the Toronto Blue Jays. Martinez has missed six out of the last nine games. Cora told reporters prior to the game he expects Martinez to be back in the lineup on Saturday, per MassLive’s Chris Cotillo.