Red Sox prove desperation can sometimes make things more interesting

Rob Bradford
August 16, 2019 - 11:03 pm

If the Red Sox were cruising through life on top of the world -- like, say, a year ago -- this 9-1 win over the Orioles would be met with a gigantic postgame yawn.

But August has brought this team the need for desperation, and when that comes rolling around there is no such thing as meaningless moments. That much you could sense when listening to Alex Cora talk after his team's resounding series-opening win. (For a complete recap, click here.)

"That would be great if we could do this for a month and a half," said the Red Sox manager. "If we do this for a month and a half, we’re playing in October. Played good defense. Good at-bats. Everybody contributed. ... If we’re going to be aggressive with what we’re going to try to do with the bullpen and our pitches, there are certain games we have to make sure when we have the lead, just keep going. Keep going at it, and if we can do that, it gives us a mulligan as far as, ok, it’s another day we can be more aggressive. That’s the way we’re going to treat it. We know where we’re at, there’s not hiding from it, but that was a good game today."

Only 38 games to go. Seven games back of Tampa Bay in the loss column.

This is the Red Sox' reality. Even against a team like the Orioles -- who now have a combined record of 86-198 over the past two seasons -- there is little room for error, as was put on display when the Orioles drew even at 1-1 heading into the fourth inning. But to the Sox' credit, they played like a team leaving nothing to chance.

You had a starting pitcher in Rick Porcello who allowed just one run over six innings for the second time in his past three starts. (The Red Sox have now won 17 of their last 18 games when their starting pitcher has thrown six or more innings and allowed three or fewer earned runs.)

"I think the mix of pitches, the breaking ball, that was probably his best breaking ball of the season," Cora said. "He threw it a lot. Probably somebody has the numbers. (He threw 25 curveballs and 10 changeups out of 84 pitches. "It looked that way. Fastball, it was good up in the zone. He did an outstanding job, and like I said before the game, you can look at the record, who they are and where there are in the standings, but offensively, they’ve been putting big numbers against good teams. So, it was good for him to go six and give us a chance to win."

The top of the lineup did plenty of damage with the combination of Mookie Betts, Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts, J.D. Martinez and Andrew Benintendi all coming away with at least one extra-base hit.

"We know where we are and we know what we have to do, but we also know that there’s so much we can control, so we try to go out there and play our best baseball and hopefully at the end of the season, we’ll be where we want to be," noted Benintendi, who is now hitting .376 with a 1.108 OPS in his last 27 games at Fenway Park after the three-hit night.

And even some of the decision-making magic returned, with Chris Owings reappearing after a rough Red Sox debut last Sunday with a key, two-run, bases-loaded, pinch-hit double in the sixth inning. The Red Sox are now hitting a major-league best .385 in pinch-hitting opportunities this season.

Sure, it was the Orioles, but the Red Sox don't really have a choice in the matter these days. They didn't when facing the hottest team in the American League in Cleveland and they won't for the next two against Orioles or the following pair vs. Philadelphia before heading out to the West Coast. Not when the Rays get to potentially feast on the likes of Detroit, Mariners and Baltimore over the next three series.

But so be it. There is clearly still some hope in the building. It was evident before the game when Cora said he plans on being here on Nov. 2 and was a vibe that certainly didn't change six hours later.

Betts scored two more runs -- one of which came on his 21st homer of the season. He is on a 162-game pace for 145 runs, which would make him the second Red Sox ever to score 140 or more runs. (Ted Williams did it three times.)