BOSTON -- Filthy. Electric. Dominant. Those are the perhaps the best words to describe the arsenal Craig Kimbrel is utilizing in the ninth inning for the Red Sox this season.Once the bullpen gate swung open on Wednesday and Kimbrel emerged, and it was pretty much lights-out for the Orioles, as
BOSTON -- Filthy. Electric. Dominant. Those are the perhaps the best words to describe the arsenal Craig Kimbrel is utilizing in the ninth inning for the Red Sox this season.
Once the bullpen gate swung open on Wednesday and Kimbrel emerged, and it was pretty much lights-out for the Orioles, as the closer needed just 12 pitches to strike out three straight batters and preserve a 4-2 victory for Thomas Pomeranz and the Red Sox. The bullpen recorded the final 11 outs for Boston.
"Yeah, those guys have done a great job down there all year," said Pomeranz. "[Matt] Barnes, [Heath] Hembree, especially Craig at the end, strikes out the side pretty much every time out there. It's pretty great, pretty awesome having those guys behind me."
It was a tough night for the Orioles, who had Kevin Gausman ejected after hitting Xander Bogaerts in the hip with a curveball in the second inning, and then had Adam Jones tossed for arguing balls and strikes following a strikeout in the fifth inning. More >>
The quick hook by crew chief and home-plate umpire Sam Holbrook was a result of the recent bad blood between the Red Sox and Orioles, which led to Commissioner Rob Manfred having a conference call with the managers of both teams earlier Wednesday. More >>
"Just given the situation and the tension between the two clubs and all the stuff that's gone over the past few weeks, we're all on high alert with anything," Holbrook told a pool reporter. "I know that the ball was a curveball, but it hit him square in the back and just making a split decision at that point right there, there needs to be an end to this stuff, and I felt like an ejection was the right thing to do at that time, and that's what we did. Thankfully, we didn't have any more problems the rest of the game."
Neither did Kimbrel, but that's nothing new. The righty has retired 30 of his last 32 batters he's faced. A foul ball by leadoff man Joey Rickard was the only pitch that the righty even allowed contact on, as he notched his American League-leading 10th save in 11 opportunities.
"Whether it's the last 10 games, whether it's all season long, it's powerful. It's swing-and-miss," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "The most important thing is just how the strike throwing is so consistent. When he's got that curveball going and the ability to elevate his fastball, he's an extremely difficult pitcher to handle."
Due to Gausman's ejection, the Orioles had to use scheduled Thursday night starter Ubaldo Jimenez for three innings out of the bullpen. With a starter to be determined, Baltimore will try to salvage a split of this eventful, four-game series in the finale.
"It's frustrating to lose anybody," said Orioles manager Buck Showalter. "Sam's a good umpire, just trying to do what he thinks is right. Obviously we're biased. We know the sincerity of the intent. Obviously he's not trying to hit anybody. You've got a 77 mph pitch compared to 96 last night. You figure it out. You guys are smart. You guys have been watching a lot of baseball."
Pomeranz grinded through a 34-pitch first inning without giving up a run, and earned the win for Boston, giving up five hits and two runs over 5 1/3 innings while striking out seven.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Scott gets Sox out of trouble: The O's had a chance to tie the game in the top of the eighth, with two on and two outs. When manager John Farrell went to lefty Robby Scott, Showalter called on right-handed-hitting Francisco Pena to hit for Seth Smith. Scott won the battle, getting Pena on a grounder to third.
Hardy error opens floodgates: Bogaerts led off the bottom of the fourth with a routine grounder to J.J. Hardy, but the shortstop booted it for what turned out to be a crucial error. The Red Sox went on to score three times in the inning against reliever Richard Bleier, and two of the runs were unearned.
Mookie dodges scare, then steals second:Mookie Betts beat out an infield hit in the seventh off the glove of first baseman Chris Davis and nearly got injured for his trouble. Davis threw to first, where second baseman Jonathan Schoop was covering, but his throw got away. Catcher Caleb Joseph backed it up and then fired to the bag, where Betts was retreating. The throw struck Betts in the left leg. Betts was initially hobbled, and clutched his leg. But he stretched out, stayed in the game, and then stole second just moments later.
"I didn't see the catcher, so I was about to try to go to second but saw him come at the last second and the ball just hit me," said Betts. "It just hit in a bad spot. It hurt, it's pretty stiff now, but when I was loose, it wasn't too bad. I'll be alright tomorrow." More >>
"I don't get involved in all the drama or whatever. I try to keep a sense of reality and do the right thing as one of the leaders on this club. I'll continue to try to do what's in the best interest of our team, our players and their families." -- Showalter
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
The Red Sox have been playing a lot of tense games. Twenty-two of the last 27 have been decided by three runs or fewer, including 15 of the last 17.
FROM THE TRAINERS ROOM
Marco Hernandez, who has been filling in for the injured Pablo Sandoval at third base, suffered a left shoulder strain while making an error in the top of the first inning on Wednesday. Josh Rutledge replaced him, and wound up getting a hit and knocking in two runs.
"He's sore right now," said Farrell. "When he went back to field the ball with a drop-step move and the glove hand started to go behind him, he felt like there was a little bit of a slippage sensation that he had. And he's done this before. We'll check and see how he comes in tomorrow."
In the top of the seventh inning the Red Sox called for a replay on a close force play at first base in which Mark Trumbo was called safe. After further review, the play was overturned as it was deemed that the ball reached Mitch Moreland's glove before Trumbo touched the bag. Trumbo was called out to end the inning.
Orioles: Jimenez was forced into action on Wednesday night, leaving Baltimore with a TBD for Thursday night's 7:10 p.m. ET start. This will be the last game that Baltimore will play at Fenway Park until it returns for a three-game set in late August. Showalter did not announce a Thursday starter after the game, but stated that "We have a contingency in place."
Red Sox: In the finale of this four-game series, Kyle Kendrick will have his contract purchased from Triple-A Pawtucket and make his first start in the Majors since Oct. 2, 2015. The sinkerballer will replace knuckleballer Steven Wright, who is out indefinitely with a left knee sprain. Kendrick pitched well for the Red Sox in Spring Training, going 4-0 with a 2.18 ERA.
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Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.
Craig Forde is a contributor to MLB.com based in Boston.