The Orioles pitching staff has been rough in 2019, a cavalcade of “worst in the majors” marks, like the worst team ERA (5.61), the worst opponent hit rate per game (9.7), the worst strikeout rate per game (7.7), and the worst home runs allowed rate per game (2.2). At 6.13, Baltimore’s bullpen ERA is the worst in the American League.
And yet the Red Sox offense, so good in so many ways, particularly these past two weeks, struggled to string hits together on Wednesday, eventually winning on the strength of an Andrew Benintendi solo shot in the top of the 12th inning. It was Benintendi’s first career HR in extra innings.
On a night when Chris Sale works eight full innings (with a no-hitter through nearly six of them), you might expect a break for the bullpen. Instead, the Sox relied on Matt Barnes, Brandon Workman, Ryan Brasier and Heath Hembree for shutout, walk-free relief. Brasier, who worried Red Sox Nation with back-toback outings in which he allowed two earned runs apiece, was perfect this time around, earning a win in the process.
Sale caged one Oriole after the other, including an immaculate seventh inning in which he struck out all three Baltimore batters on nine straight pitches. The only other recorded immaculate outings in Sox history have been by Rick Porcello and Craig Kimbrel (2017), Clay Buchholz (2012) and Pedro Martinez (2002).
In all, Sale struck out a season-high 14 batters, one from his career-high. He walked none. Notably, beside Sale, no Boston starter since at least 1908 has exited from a performance like that with a no-decision. Worse yet, it’s happened to Sale three times in his career (twice with Boston), the most of any major league pitcher in history.
The Sox combined for 22 total strikeouts on Wednesday, their most since striking out 23 Blue Jays on September 5, 2017 (19 innings). The team record is 24 strikeouts, remarkably occurring just 10 days later on September 15-inning game at Tampa Bay.
While the Orioles lineup is hardly fearsome, there’s plenty of reason to feel good with where Chris Sale is trending. His fastball velocity averaged 94.8 MPH over the last five of his 108 total pitches. Sale is now 1-1 with a 1.73 ERA over his last four outings after starting the season 0-4 with a 8.50 ERA.
Bradley Saves Game
He won’t be credited with a save in the record books, but Jackie Bradley, Jr. did just that Wednesday night, robbing Trey Mancini of a game winning, 11th inning homer. Bradley climbed the wall to bring that ball back in a play that really needs to be seen to be believed.
Bradley has taken his lumps at the plate. Hitless in four at-bats last night, his full-season batting average is down to just .142. But Mancini doffed his cap with respect when he saw the end result, and Bradley’s dad, watching from the stands, well, his reaction was priceless.
The Red Sox, now finally at the .500 mark, end the road trip 5-2. They take on the Mariners, Rockies and Astros at Fenway Park next.