The Baltimore Orioles brought several questions into the 2021 season, and pitching might have been the biggest one. But strong work on the mound has let the Orioles take the first two games of their season-opening series at Boston, and they’ll look to complete a sweep on Sunday afternoon.
After John Means threw seven masterful innings in Friday’s season opener — allowing one hit and retiring 18 in a row — the bullpen closed it out with two shutout innings in a 3-0 victory.
The song remained the same for Baltimore in a 4-2 victory on Saturday afternoon. Starter Matt Harvey pitched well in 4 2/3 innings, giving up two runs, before manager Brandon Hyde pulled him when the Red Sox were threatening in the fifth.
After that, Adam Plutko threw 2 1/3 scoreless innings and got the win. Cesar Valdez got his second save in two days. The bullpen tossed 4 1/3 shutout frames, and have yet to give up a run in their first 6 1/3 innings this season.
If the Orioles’ starters can improve and continue pitching this way, they will find a better chance at being more competitive.
“It’s really satisfying to win close, well-pitched games (and get) good defense,” Hyde said. “That’s how you win in this league.”
The Orioles made a bit of a surprising move on defense in the first two games, shifting Rio Ruiz from third to second base, and he’s done well. He has gone back to third late in each game for defensive purposes.
Trey Mancini, who missed the 2020 season due to colon cancer surgery and treatments, could fill a big hole for Baltimore with his bat and at first base. He came up with a crucial RBI Saturday on a sacrifice fly that extended the Orioles’ lead to 4-2.
On Sunday, rookie Bruce Zimmermann starts for the Orioles and pitches in his third career game. He faced Boston in one of is previous two outings, allowing just one run and two hits in four innings with five strikeouts on Sept. 23, 2020.
Zimmermann will go against Garrett Richards, who is trying to show he’s back in form after battling health issues the past few years. Richards has yet to find success against the Orioles in his career, going 0-4 with a 5.46 ERA in eight appearances (four starts).
To prevent a sweep, the Red Sox are going to have to put all parts of their game together. Defensive problems hounded them in the 3-0 loss Friday and happened again in Saturday’s game.
The miscue that proved costly came when Rafael Devers made a diving stop at third in the fourth, but then made a throwing error. That kept the Orioles going, and they eventually took a 2-0 lead when Maikel Franco grounded a two-run single to center.
The Red Sox also wasted some good scoring chances and went just 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position. They stranded eight and have scored only two runs in these first two games.
“We had some good at-bats today,” manager Alex Cora said. “Obviously, we can be better, we feel we can be better. But out of the three phases of the game, the defensive part of it is the one that has been disappointing the first two games.”
–Field Level Media