BALTIMORE – Suddenly, the Orioles are what passes for hot. For the second time this season, they have a three-game winning streak and won five of six.
Timely hitting, brilliant defense and a wonderful performance by the bullpen contributed to the Orioles 5-2 win over the Boston Red Sox before 22,201 on Wednesday night.
The Orioles (28-30) are still in fourth place, 4 ½ games out of first, but are showing signs of life.
It was keyed by that defense, particularly in the second inning.
Xander Bogaerts drove a ball against the center field wall. Adam Jones retrieved it and fired it to J.J. Hardy, who was covering second.
Initially called safe, a 25-second replay review gave Jones an assist. A moment later, Pablo Sandoval singled to left. Travis Snider threw to Ryan Flaherty to tag out Sandoval. Mookie Betts hit a drive to center that Jones ran down to end the inning.
“That’s probably the key inning, probably as key as anything,” manager Buck Showalter said.
Jones was at it again to start the fifth. Betts drove a ball to right-center, and Jones dove and made a spectacular catch.
"He doesn't cede anything: 'Here's a ball over my head and that's a double. Now let me get to a place where if it comes off clean I've got a play,’” Showalter said. “It's infectious.”
Snider, playing his first season alongside Jones, both in left and right field, has become a convert after 2 ½ seasons in Pittsburgh
“I told him I would have caught that ball standing up but he didn’t believe me. No, getting to play next to Andrew McCutchen and now Adam Jones, I’m pretty spoiled getting to watch these guys play each night. And he’s just a tremendous ballplayer and that was a tremendous play,” Snider said.
Tommy Hunter and Darren O’Day combined for four spotless innings in relief of Wei-Yin Chen (2-4). Over the last two nights, the bullpen has gotten 26 outs and allowed just one hit.
Showalter has had to be inventive playing a man short because of Brian Matusz’s eight-game suspension. The Orioles are 4-1 in the first five games of the ban, but they may have to disable Miguel Gonzalez on Thursday to add a bullpen piece.
O’Day, who picked up his second save of the season, has seen the atmosphere improve lately.
“We have fundamental players here. You look around at the players that we have, and they’re selected for a reason. They’re guys who pay attention to details, do the little things. For a while we kind of were not doing that. Lately whether it’s game calling, catching the ball, making a good pitch, kind of staying in the moment. I think guys’ games have improved, and it’s showing the result on the scoreboard,” O’Day said.
Chen won for just the second time in 12 starts, but he couldn’t get an out in the sixth.
After Rick Porcello (4-6) struck out the side in the first, Chris Davis began the second by bunting for a base hit. Porcello and catcher Blake Swihart fought over the ball, and Davis was safe at first.
Delmon Young hit into a fielder’s choice, and after he moved to second on Snider’s infield out, Hardy’s double scored him. Flaherty’s single scored Hardy for a 2-0 lead.
Dustin Pedroia singled with two outs in the third and scored on Brock Holt’s double.
Jones’ RBI single scored Manny Machado in the third for a 3-1 lead.
Chen allowed a leadoff double to Pedroia in the sixth. Pedroia is now 17-for-35 (.486) against Chen. Holt’s single moved him to third, and Hunter relieved Chen.
Hunter struck out Hanley Ramirez, and looked as if he would be out of the inning when Mike Napoli bounced to short. Hardy’s relay to second was in time, but Flaherty’s throw to first eluded Davis, and Pedroia scored. Bogaerts ended the inning by grounding to Hardy.
Chen allowed two runs on seven hits in five-plus innings.
The Orioles scored two more in the sixth when Davis, Young and Snider began the inning with singles. Snider drove in Davis. Hardy’s fly to right scored Young, and it was 5-2.
Boston is 27-33.
Jones’ defensive night will stand out.
“You can make good plays when your pitcher is out there throwing strikes, battling and grinding it out. Those type of things happen. When they are walking people and put us on our heels, those things don’t happen. But if they are aggressive, you never know. We are on our toes,” Jones said.
NOTES: According to STATS, the last time the Orioles had outfield assists on consecutive plays was July 18, 2009. Nolan Reimold and Nick Markakis recorded them. … Wade Miley (5-5, 4.67) faces Chris Tillman (3-7, 5.61) on Thursday night.